Public Safety Department Unveils Text-to-911 Emergency Technology

December 05, 2017 08:10 PM

Minnesotans in need of help can now send a text message and receive an emergency response. 

New technology called Text-to-911 aims to benefit people with hearing loss or others who can't easily speak over the phone during emergencies, such as a home invasion or kidnapping.

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"Text-to-911 is a game-changer, and it's going to help save lives," said Bob Hawkins, assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the agency releasing the technology.

The new service was unveiled Tuesday at the University of Minnesota Public Safety Emergency Center.    

Unlike some states, Minnesota chose to roll out the technology at all 104 of its 911 dispatch centers at the same time.

"Today, fewer than 20 percent of all 911 centers nationwide are Text-to-911 capable," said Dana Wahlberg, emergency communications network 911 program manager for the DPS. "This new service marks a major milestone in Minnesota's Next Generation 911 deployment."

Wahlberg says it's important to remember 911 dispatchers would prefer to speak with a human, because texting doesn't provide the same location information as does a voice call. "The model everyone should think about is call if you can, text if you can't." 

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Here's how to send a Text-to-911 message. In the line where you would enter a name or phone number, type 911. Experts suggest then getting straight to the point and being direct in the message box. Type something like: "Home invasion, 123 Main Street, Anytown." That would give the 911 dispatcher information they need to get the call started. 
 

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Kevin Doran

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