Text to 911 now available in Marion County

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Oct. 22, 2015) -- Marion County is the latest to get "Text to 911" service, which has been spreading across the state.

According to the Marion County Sheriff's Office, anyone with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless can now text an emergency to 911 instead of calling. You cannot use the service in Lawrence, Speedway or at the Indianapolis International Airport.

Text to 911, which has been rolling out across Indiana, has been long-anticipated in Indianapolis. Lt. Col. Joseph McAtee, Commander of the Communications Division for the Marion County Sheriff's Office, said it took longer to implement because of the size of the county and the amount of technology upgrades it took to get it up and running.

"It’s been a long road, we started last year about this time," McAtee said.

McAtee said that around 400 people per month had been trying to text 911 in Marion County before the service was up and running, showing just how much demand there was already.

Dispatcher Norma Duckett has embraced the service and showed FOX59 how it works.

You simply send a text to 911 with a message detailing your emergency. You cannot send photos or video and dispatchers say you should include an address in your first text and refrain from using slang or abbreviations.

Your text goes to the computers of every Marion County dispatcher and just like a call, one of them will pick up and text you back.

"(You) have the benefit of all these people in here being able to answer (your) text," Duckett said.

You can then text back and forth with the dispatcher. It also works in reverse, most commonly if you call 911 and hang up. A dispatcher can input your number and send you a text to be sure you are okay.

Duckett has already seen the benefit of the service. She said that one woman who she was able to text after a call told her that she was in trouble.

"She said that she was in her bathroom and she was being held against her will. There was somebody in the kitchen and she was afraid to talk," Duckett said.

She was able to get police to that woman and help her.

Just because the service is available, though, doesn't mean you should plan to use it for emergency situations. McAtee and Duckett both said that calling 911 will get you a much faster response and you should only text if you're in a situation where you cannot call.

"If they can call us, that would be a faster option," Duckett said.

For more information about the Text to 911 service, you can visit the link here.


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