Text To 911 Expanding In Indiana; Champaign County A Few Months Away
By Jeff Bossert
The country’s major wireless carriers recently began providing service that allows cell phone users to contact emergency service via text message. But local emergency agencies are only hooked up to take Text-to-911 in a handful of areas. And downstate Illinois is not among them.
Champaign County METCAD 9-1-1 Deputy Director Greg Abbott said it's only effective in a few scenarios, like a kidnapping or domestic situation, when making a phonecall could be dangerous.
And Abbott said there's no way of knowing of someone's location without including it in a text.
"The technology's not quite there," he said. "The location piece is something that really concerns me - not being able to find out where that person is. We may be able to get their phone number, because it will show up in the text. But that still doesn't help us locate the device."
Abbott says Text to 911 is primarily aimed at the speech and hearing impaired. In Illinois, it’s only offered currently in Cook County, but Abbott vows to bring in the equipment and proper training to provide it locally in early 2015.
Indiana, meanwhile is among the leaders for providing this new service, in nearly 40 counties, including Western Vigo County, and service is pending in nearby Vermillion County, Indiana.
Barry Ritter is the Executive Director of Indiana's statewide 911 board.
"For us to deploy Text to 911 in Indiana was a lot easier than most jurisdictions are facing," he said. "We have a significant percentage of deaf and hard of hearing individuals who cannot speak that require access to emergency services."
The service is paid for at the state level and at no cost to local governments, part of Indiana's master contract for wireless 911, with a 90-cent fee per device.
Other areas providing the service include Vermont, Maine, portions of New York and Maine, and several counties in Texas.