TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — Indiana is taking the lead nationally on offering the ability to send a text messages to 911 emergency responders, according to state officials.
Barry Ritter, executive director of the Indiana Statewide 911 Board, said Indiana has the largest deployment of the service in the country. It’s currently available in 88 of the state’s 92 counties.
Ritter credits Indiana’s decision to handle wireless 911 as a statewide initiative with its ability to become a leader in such services, the (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star reported.
Most states only offer text-to-911 service in some areas.
Illinois offers it in only about five areas of Cook, Clinton and Champaign counties, according to the Federal Communications Commission. The service isn’t available in Edgar, Clark or Crawford counties in Illinois’ Wabash Valley.
Text-to-911 is available in markets where call centers have opted to accept emergency text messages from the public.
In Indiana, eight of the state’s 911 dispatch centers have received more than 50 text messages requesting assistance since May 2014, when the service officially went online, Ritter said. Thirty dispatch centers have received fewer than 50 messages.
Making a voice call to 911 will often be the better option, but there are some cases in which text messages are the right way to seek help, Ritter said.
Last week, an Indianapolis woman reported that she was being abducted using the text-to-911 service, resulting in her rescue by state police on Interstate 70 in Vigo County.
Texting 911 also would be handy in a situation where someone is choking.
Dispatch centers also are able to send a text message to a phone from which a 911 call is made and disconnected to see if the person on the other end needs help.
At the Vigo County 911 Center, a dispatcher will first try to call a person back after receiving a hang-up call, said director Rob McMullen. If no one answers, a text message is sent to the caller.
Dispatchers in Vigo County have sent more than 3,000 text messages to callers as follow ups, McMullen said.