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County set to receive 911 texts

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Starting next week, you’ll be able to text 911 for help if someone breaks into your home or you’re in a bank that’s being robbed.

But emergency dispatchers would still prefer you call if possible, county 911 director Mike Watkins said.

Text to 911 service is starting in Johnson County next week, which can be useful for people who are hearing impaired or in a situation where they can’t safely make a phone call. In the future, people also could text photos to dispatchers, such as if they came upon a serious accident on the highway.


When dispatchers receive a text message, it will open a chat window on their computer so they can message back and forth with the person in need, Watkins said.

That method is slower, so if people choose to text 911, they should try to include as much information as possible in the first message, especially an address of where to send help, he said.

Dispatchers won’t be able to pinpoint your location like they would if you called from your cell or landline phone, he said.

“The SMS technology isn’t as accurate to be able to pinpoint. If you do a voice call from a

cellphone, we can come pretty close to where you’re calling from. When we do it with text messages, we can’t get as close,” Watkins said.

State 911 officials will start training county dispatchers Tuesday, and service should be turned on later next week. If you try to text 911 in Johnson County before then, you’ll receive a message telling you to make a voice call, Watkins said.

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