New tech makes it possible to text when in an emergency

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- You can now text 911 about your emergency in Shawnee County.

Texting to 911 was designed for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, but authorities say it’s another tool for those who may not be able to talk on the phone because of their surroundings.

“Domestic violence victims. Human trafficking victims. Those that are maybe in a situation where they may be too afraid to make a voice call,” said Melanie Mills-Bergers, Director of the Shawnee County Emergency Communications Center

As soon as the text for help goes out, just like a 911 call, a dispatcher is on the other end until help arrives. While it may be more convenient, authorities warn calling is still the best option.

“If you’re in absolute danger and you feel like you’re going to be harmed, a voice call is always going to be the best. Texting takes longer. Some cell phones, depending on if it’s an android or an apple, they respond differently,” Mills-Bergers explained.

The texting system also can hone in on your location if you’re not able to respond.

“We’re going to get really really close location. It may even show right on the parcel,” she said while pointing to one of the maps in dispatch.
But with the new tech, they still need people to fill the seats in the dispatch center to accept those messages.

“If you’re looking public service, that’s something you’re interested in, this is an excellent place to start,” said Mills-Bergers.

They are working to expand the text service to include pictures. It’s been operational since last week, and you’re only to use it in an emergency.

To text 911, all you have to do is enter 911 in the to field, then write your message.