March 17, 2018 07:16 AM
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says more than 920 texts have been sent using its Text-to-911 service over the first few months it has been available.
"Text has become a very integral part of everyone's life," said Dana Wahlberg, the state's director of emergency communication networks. "I think to some extent, people have always assumed that they could text 911."
Wahlberg said the total texts over the three-month period make up nearly two percent of the total 911 calls taken by dispatch across the state during the same period.
The new technology is meant to benefit people with hearing loss, or others who can't easily speak over the phone during emergencies, such as a home invasion or kidnappings.
It can also be an alternative for people who need to remain quiet in an emergency in order to remain safe.
"We really want people to follow our motto, which is call if you can, text if you can't," Wahlberg said. "For the most part that's what we're seeing."
A release from the Minnesota DPS said 306 texts were sent in December, 260 in January and 354 in February.
Where they're coming from
Here are the Minnesota 911 dispatch centers that have received the most 911 texts by month, according to the Minnesota DPS:
1. Hennepin County; 2. St. Louis County; 3. Mille Lacs County; 4. Ramsey County; 5. Olmsted County
1. City of Minneapolis; 2. Hennepin and St. Louis County; 4. Ramsey County; 5. Mille Lacs County; 6. Olmsted County
1. City of Minneapolis; 2. Hennepin County; 3. St. Louis County; 4. Ramsey County; 5. Mille Lacs County
Among the texts sent was one from a person having difficulty breathing during a panic attack, another from a person hiding in the basement during a burglary and one from a child, whose parents were having a domestic dispute. The release said the child had previously been punished by her parents for making a voice call to 911 in a similar situation.
"The child wasn't punished because the parents didn't know where that call came from," Wahlberg said.
Wahlberg also reinforced that people should not use the service simply out of convenience.
"We'd really like to discourage people from using it as an alternative simply because texting is their preference," she said.
The release did state that many have texted 911 in situations where calling would be more acceptable, such as reporting downed trees and icy roads or a hit-and-run collision.
It also said many texts went cold when dispatchers tried to ask follow-up questions, but received no replies.
Frank Rajkowski and Kirsten Swanson
Updated: March 17, 2018 07:16 AM
Created: March 16, 2018 03:38 PM
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