- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Officials from two Nebraska counties said allowing people to text emergency calls has some challenges, even though it has expanded emergency services and saved some lives.

Buffalo and Douglas counties began their text-to-911 services in January 2015, according to the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/2e6FDNv ). Officials said calling 911 is still the fastest, most effective way to assure first responders can get to the scene.

Interim Douglas County 911 Director Mark Conrey said text exchanges in Omaha are processed more slowly than regular 911 calls and that location information transmitted with the messages can be unreliable. Conrey said text exchanges can take an average of four minutes before someone is dispatched, while calls are dispatched in just over one minute.

Conrey stressed that the texting feature is still important to serving deaf and hearing-impaired people, or people who are not in a safe environment to call 911.

“If you ignore it, God help you,” he said.

But in Buffalo County, the system helped two Kearney children who successfully alerted authorities via text that their dad was drunk and driving them to Colorado in April. Buffalo County Sheriff Neil Miller said they’ve only had problems receiving photos from some carriers.

Lt. Robert Tubbs of the sheriff’s office said Buffalo County received 93 text exchanges the first month after it launched the technology in January 2015, however that number has dropped to 10 or less a month.

Public Safety Director Tom Casady said while Lincoln does not yet have the 911 texting technology, a new emergency communications system with a similar feature is expected to be put into place this winter.

“It’s something all the 911 centers need to be working toward,” Buffalo County Sheriff Neil Miller said.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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