Several CTX counties to launch text to 911 service

Posted at 7:48 PM, Feb 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-07 20:38:14-05

Several Central Texas counties, including Bell County, are expected to launch their text to 911 service on Sunday.

Bell County Communications Center Executive Director Michael Harmon said the system, which is paid by the 911 fees on cell phone bills, will be beneficial in situations when a person is in danger.

"An intruder may be in the house and you don't want to alert the intruder where you are. You can silence your phone and text us and you can see an emergency request for assistance without the intruder knowing where you are," Harmon said.

Misty Stevens, who is a dispatcher and team leader on day shift, said there would be other added benefits for the system.

"I think it will be good for not only when they have emergencies when they can't speak but also for hearing impaired," Stevens said.

The Brazos County 911 District implemented text to 911 in December of 2016. In 2017, dispatchers received 419 texts out of 94,800 calls. In 2018, dispatchers received 264 text messages, which is 0.3 percent of the total calls. 

The communications center also instituted texting the non-emergency number as an alternative method for the public to use.

In McLennan County, text to 911 was implemented in May of 2018. However, the number of incoming texts, which includes messages to test the system, is not as high as expected. 

Dispatchers in McLennan County received at least 419 calls since its implementation. Last year, the total number of calls was 175,335. 

Regardless of the volume, Emergency Communications Manager for Waco police and McLennan County Sheriff's Office Timothy Rhudy said it's worth it.

"I think it's good to give somebody another way to contact 911 so in those situations when it's not feasible for them to call, they can still contact us," Rhudy.

Rhudy and Harmon emphasize if you can call, that is still considered the best option to communicate with 911. 

"Calling is the best means of requesting help from 911. This is just an additional pathway that people can request emergency service, we are glad to be able to offer," Harmon said.

He added he encourages those who use the service to send their location in their first text message.

Uryan Nelson with the Central Texas Council of Governments said Coryell, Milam, Mills, Lampasas, San Saba and Hamilton Counties are also launching their 911 system on Sunday. 

However, he said even though Fort Hood is located in Bell and Coryell Counties, the post will not have text to 911 capabilities.Therefore, people on Fort Hood must continue calling 911 for assistance.

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