News : Text to 911 to Launch in Nebraska
Kearney, NB, Dec 22, 2014 -- Nearly 50 years ago the first 911 call was made in the United States in 1968. Soon Nebraskans will be able to text for help.
Buffalo County and Douglas County are launching the text to 911 service at the start of the new year. On January 5th the new texting service designed to keep up with today's phone abilities will launch.
"New technology emerges and evolves and 911's always trying to catch up to make 911 as available for everyone as we possibly can," said Buffalo County Sheriff Neil Miller.
That includes the deaf community that can't make voice calls on cell phones.
Sheriff Miller said, "This texting version of 911 is a great opportunity for the hearing impaired and deaf community to be able to text directly into the 911 centers. We also see this as a way for people who might put themselves in jeopardy if they were to speak in being to request help from the 911 centers."
It took over a year of software tests and preparing to catch up to smartphone technology.
"We're working with Verizon doing live testing. All our deputies have Verizon Smartphones so they're testing during the slower periods into the dispatchers and that way the dispatcher can see how they're going to come in, how that location is going to come in, how accurate it is," said Lt. Robert Tubbs, the Communications Supervisor in Buffalo County.
Sheriff Miller said while this is a great new technology, by no means should it replace traditional voice calls. Calling 911 is still the best was to report an emergency or if you're in trouble.
He said, "We're able with a cellular call to really get a pretty good location on where that caller is at based on the GPS chip that is in the telephone. With the texting service, it does not have that capability yet, so our location services that we get from a text message are very, very limited."
"What it's going to do is come up on a screen, just like a regular phone call," said Lt. Tubbs. "Once we answer that, we'll see what the message is that they sent, the first message that we are sending back is, 'Buffalo County Emergency Center, please call 911 if you can.'"
In Buffalo County, texts can be made from Verizon and Sprint cell phones. Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile will be available for use in Douglas County.
Buffalo and Douglas Counties are just a start. The goal is for this program to be implemented across the Cornhusker State.
"We need to find out how this is going to work so that we can write protocols and procedures for the use this text to 911 and then share that with the rest of the 911 community in Nebraska," said Sheriff Miller.
The Sheriff said he expects Buffalo and Douglas Counties to follow the national average of 911 texts, only making up about 1-2% of reports that operators receive.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Buffalo County:
Buffalo County is a county located in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. As of the 2010 census, the population was 13,587. Its county seat is Alma.
Published: Monday, December 29, 2014