Local emergency communications have finally entered the digital age, and that service is a welcome addition. However, we agree with police agencies that the new service should not be used routinely.
The Indiana Statewide 9-1-1 Board announced Tuesday that emergency dispatch centers will now accept text messages for emergencies. The move comes after a testing period, which included the Elkhart County 9-1-1 center.
THE SERVICE IS available only through Verizon Wireless at this time, but T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T have committed to adding the service soon. The goal of the Federal Communication Commission is to offer the service nationwide by the end of the year, according to state officials.
Local police departments and the Indiana 9-1-1 board caution users of text services to not make a 9-1-1 text unless calling 9-1-1 is not an option. Police said calling is more efficient and the caller can speak immediately to a dispatcher to give their information. Texting, and the response from dispatchers, is slower and texting is less informative than voice communication. And there is no reliable way of knowing if a text has reached the dispatch center. So, we too urge those wanting to contact 9-1-1 centers to use their phone before texting.
ALSO, EACH CALLING and texting plan has its limitations, so mobile phone and tablet users should check their device to make sure it is enabled to make 9-1-1 texts at a moment’s notice.
The guidelines issued by the 9-1-1 board for using 9-1-1 text should also be followed. Don’t send attachments or photos or copy the text to third-parties; use the service only when phoning is not an option, such as when a medical condition prevents speech or in case of an abduction or home invasion when quiet communication is needed. And we would like to add, don’t text while driving.