Text to 911 growing quickly across Indiana

Local News

Indiana is staking it’s claim as the nation’s text to 911 leader, an impressive accomplishment since the service has only been available a few years.

Hundreds of thousands of people are saved from danger each year through 911, but the question is how many more lives could be saved if everyone knew texting 911 was an option?

“We still have a lot of work,” said Executive Director of the Indiana 911 Board Ed Reuter. “We can never, never become complacent and think that we’ve done enough because we just have to keep that accelerator down and make sure that we continue to promote, continue to educate people that this is a very key element of 911.” 

Calling 911 should always be the first option, but for times when it’s unsafe to speak, or for those who are unable to speak, a text to 911 is appropriate. 

Indiana got text to 911 in 2014. By 2016, it was available in all 92 counties.

In 2017 there were 14,700 inbound texts to 911 centers across the state and 167,000 outbound texts. There were 4.2 million inbound calls. 

In Allen County there were 647 incoming texts and 8,041 outbound texts in 2017. There were 256,000 inbound 911 emergency calls.

Indiana has become a nation leader in the text to 911 service, according to Reuter.

“Some states have outbound capacity but not to the statewide capacity that Indiana has,” he said.

Ron Rayl oversees Allen County 911 as interim director of the Consolidated Communication Partnership. He recalled a text from three months ago where a woman felt threatened by her husband who had wielded a knife on her. He was driving her from Gary to Woodburn against her will.

“If he would have heard her talking to the police, that could have heightened his level of violence, his anger, his frustration,” Rayl explained. “It could have caused more a stop and hit, beat, put a knife to her throat. He could have killed her. So by being quiet and texting when she had the availability when he was looking straight ahead driving the truck or passing something, she could quietly send us that information and keep us engaged, aware of where she’s at.” 

The next generation of text to 911 is just around the corner. Soon, people will be able to text pictures and videos to operators. This will be a new perspective for 911 operators.

“We’re not used to seeing the end result,” Rayl said. “That’s what the police officers and fireman and the medics and the first responders see. We get to be the neutral person that keeps everyone calm and everything and now we’re going to be seeing this, it’s going to be a whole new experience for our dispatchers. If you take a really bad call, the dispatcher can be bothered by it. When they see something, they can be really traumatized by it.” 

Also on the horizon, first responders will be able to find callers easily by tracking their cell phone. That technology is called integrated rapid SOS enhanced location.

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