COLLIN COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – Many Americans prefer texting to calling, but there’s one number most of us still can’t text – 911.
Collin County is one of the rare exceptions. Beginning in July, seven emergency call centers – the Collin County Sheriff’s Office, as well as McKinney, Allen, Frisco, Prosper, Murphy, and Sachse police departments – can now receive text messages from Verizon Wireless phones.
Frisco’s communications supervisor Roxanna Johnson admits it poses a new challenge.
“Everyone’s very nervous about things they don’t know yet. I mean, when it happens, it’ll happen. We’ll adjust. But we’re nervous about it, ” she said.
Collin County is only the second county in Texas to adopt texting to 911.
Trials of the technology, though, began as early in 2009. Black Hawk County, Iowa was the first city to tackle emergency texting. It proved so successful the county eventually began accepting text messages to 911 sent from anywhere in the state.
In 2011, dispatcher Amber Chase saw the following message:
“I want to kill myself. Will you please help me?”
Chase immediately went into action.
“It just worked out perfectly. I was able to get him the help he needed, and basically do what I would have done on the phone,” said Chase.
Another dispatcher received a text from a woman hiding in her own home.
“Boyfriend punched me. He would hurt me more if I call,” wrote the woman.
In yet another case, a boy texted the following message, while his father was within earshot: “He socked me in face this morning”
“There are definitely situations where people can’t talk — or it’s much better if they don’t talk,” said Chase.
Phone calls, though, remain the preferred method of communication. Texting has its limitations according to 911 dispatchers. It takes longer, and operators can miss out on valuable clues in the caller’s voice or background noise.
In Collin County, operators are still working out the kinks.
“In training the other day it took us four and a half minutes just to get the location of where the person is,” said Johnson.
Verizon is currently the only major carrier offering text to 911 in North Texas, but all four major carriers are working toward offering this service.
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