Central Ohio residents with emergencies will soon have the option to text 911 in addition to placing a call.
Local governments in Delaware and Franklin counties plan to test technology in the first three months of 2018 allowing the emergency texts, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
The Columbus area joins a few other municipalities in Ohio with the technology, including Cuyahoga and Hamilton counties.
Officials say a call is still preferable but texting is an important option if someone is hiding during an emergency and it would be dangerous to be heard on the phone.
“You can send information to police without holding a phone to your ear, very covertly,” Ramona Patts, Columbus Division of Support Services administrator, told the paper. “You can actually send it and nobody would know you’re sending it.”
Hearing-impaired people have also been asking for the technology, Patts said.
Government agencies have been working for years in central Ohio to make the technology possible.
Regional communication hubs in Columbus and suburban Dublin and Gahanna will serve as the region’s three primary dispatch hubs. Other local governments can tap into the technology, including Franklin County and Ohio State University.
“Call if you can; text if you can’t,” said Jay Somerville, director of the technical services bureau for Dublin’s emergency dispatch center.
Call takers will see the 911 texts on a computer screen in a window resembling a smart phone’s text-message chain.
Call takers have several programmed responses available to quickly assess the emergency but can also type custom messages.
Patts said the centers should eventually be able to receive photos and videos.
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