Text to 911 now available

Staff reports

MIAMI COUNTY — Miami County residents can now request emergency help by texting 911, the county’s Communication Center announced on Wednesday.

According to Communication Center Director Jeff Busch, this will allow people to contact dispatchers in situations when it might be safer to text than call — for example, if an intruder is in a house, a voice call might give away the caller’s position.

It will allow hearing impaired residents to contact 911 from a cell phone, rather than a landline-based telephone with an additional device.

While this technology is beneficial in certain circumstances, voice calls are preferred whenever possible, Busch added.

“We’d still rather have a phone call, because we can get the information more quickly and background information,” he said. “You can judge from the caller’s voice how serious some things are.”

Telecommunicators can gain valuable insight into situations by hearing the tone of the caller’s voice and listening to background noises through voice calls, he explained. This information can be very valuable to first responders and potential victims, as it helps the 911 center staff determine the urgency of the situation and the proper response.

The Miami County Commissioners and the Miami County Communication Center Board of Directors approved recommendations to utilize Wireless 911 Assistance Funds that are received through the State of Ohio from a surcharge placed on wireless phones that are listed as being based at a Miami County address.

“Making our citizens safer is always our goal in Miami County. Adding the ability to text 911 is another step forward in protecting our citizens. We will strive to continue to keep up with technological innovations as the communications market place evolves,” John “Bud” O’Brien, Miami County Commissioner and Chairman of the 911 board, said in a release.

The Motorola CallWorks system was purchased last year at a cost of $312,411. Additional costs for maintenance of the phone system and networking to the four major cell carriers, to be able to receive Text to 911 messages, are also paid for through this fund.

Staff reports