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Some Counties Adopting 911 Text Service

Updated: Monday, May 19 2014, 09:39 AM CDT

"In case of an emergency, dial 911."

It's the three digits that nearly everyone knows. Easy to remember, quick to type, and almost universal.

But now, there's a new option in an emergency.

"The concept is that a person who's in a situation where they can't make a voice call safely, or a person who has speech or hearing impairment that they can't talk on a normal phone, they would be able to use their cell phone to send a text message to summon help," Metcad deputy director Greg Abbott said.

Metcad takes nearly 200,000 911 calls per year. Of those, 80 percent are from cell phones. Now, there may be a new option: texting during an emergency.

But some worry about the response time.

"Texting would probably be less effective than calling 911, especially if it's an emergency situation," U of I student Michael Schwarzhaupt said. "So I would just say probably calling them is a little bit better than texting them."

There are pros and cons, but in a dire situation, will communicating by text give them the information they need?

"From the 911 operator's perspective, a lot of the information that they glean off a call is from the background noise, the voice inflection, and all those things are lost in a text message," Abbott said.

Right now in Illinois, the service is only available in Cook County. If you text 911 anywhere else, you'll get a response asking you to make a call instead.

Metcad is researching the option now, and believes it will be at least nine months to a year before it's up and running here. They want to ensure the system is reliable first.

"We are, like most of the 911 centers in the nation, still trying to figure out how we're going to deploy this," Abbott said. "There are equipment upgrades that have to take place in order to receive the calls."
Nate Rodgers, Newschannel at Nine on FOX Illinois

Some Counties Adopting 911 Text Service

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