MIAMI COUNTY, Ohio (WDTN) – Texting 911 could soon be available in a number of our counties. It’s a method more call centers are using, and is being discussed following the Orlando nightclub massacre.
Many of the victims in the Orlando shooting texted relatives at the time, urging them to call 911. They did so out of fear of being heard by the shooter. Miami County Communications Center Director Jeff Busch says being able to text 911 would help in emergency situations.
“They might not want an intruder to hear them on the phone,” Busch said. “Perhaps, they can’t speak.”
All reasons why Busch installed software this month that’s capable of receiving not just phone calls, but text messages from cell phones. The new system is funded by tax dollars collected from a statewide 911 cell phone tax.
While it may be new, Busch says the training for dispatchers won’t change.
“It’ll just show up on the screen on the phone system and they’ll be able to type on their keyboard and be able to communicate back and fourth,” Busch said. “They will enter the call on the CAB system and dispatch the appropriate response.”
According to the Federal Communications Commission, out of 6,000 dispatch centers nationwide–just over 650 of them can accept text messages. Currently, 150 dispatch centers are working on making the change this year. Miami County is one of them.
Busch says the next step is reaching out to the phone companies.
“We are filling requests with each individual cell phone company to provide texting to our center,” Busch said.
Busch says cell phone customers using Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile will be able to text in an emergency. After requests are submitted this month, companies will have 6 months to respond.
Once the system is in place, Busch says residents should still try to call if possible.
“The first few seconds are always very critical depending on the situation,” Busch said. “That’s why we do stress we would prefer calls over text messages because we can ask questions quicker and get the answers quicker.”