- Associated Press - Monday, January 26, 2015

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) - Oakland County is getting ready to roll out a system to allow people to text 911 in an emergency, but some other Michigan communities are holding off on offering the service.

In most of the U.S., calling 911 is the reliable way to get emergency help from police, fire or emergency medical services. Dispatch centers, such as the one in Oakland County, however, are catching up with texting, the Detroit Free Press reported (https://on.freep.com/1yIt7Kq ).

“We want to have the latest and best technology that will allow us to help people when they call 911, or text 911, or make any contact to get help,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.

TeleCommunication Systems, the company working with Oakland County and wireless service providers to enable text-to-911, said there were 272 texting attempts in Michigan in the first three months of 2014. Most of those messages don’t go through.

Mel Maier, chief of emergency management operations for the sheriff’s department, says people should call when they can, but will have the option to text, likely by the end of the month. An official announcement of when hasn’t been made.

Lapeer and Lake counties offer the service, the newspaper reported.

The text-to-911 service works like any text conversation, with the 911 operator using a web browser to respond within seconds. Even a text of asking for “help,” for example, will generate a response to the location, Maier said.

The Oakland County dispatch center provides services for a number of communities and townships within its borders, but to ensure text-to-911 works everywhere inside the county lines, service will be provided for every dispatch center in the county.

Oakland County is the second-busiest dispatch center in the state, next to Detroit, Maier said. Detroit police Sgt. Michael Woody said the department has looked into text-to-911 but has such a high call volume that more innovation would be needed.

“It would be hard for us to vet out which ones are true 911 calls,” he said, adding that it would be “worth revisiting if the technology improved.”


Information from: Detroit Free Press, https://www.freep.com

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