County adds texting to 911 service

County adds texting to 911 service

Feature could save lives in scenarios when calling 911 not a viable option

Call if you can, text if you can’t.

The county’s E-911 center has added a new life saving feature which allows residents to text 911 in the event of an emergency if they are unable to call.

“We actually don’t encourage texting as your primary way to get in touch with 911 because we lose a lot of things like your exact coordinates and different things we get through the actual call,” said 911 Coordinator Ronnie Sturch.

“But we don’t discourage it because under certain circumstances it can certainly be a life saving feature.”

Sturch said there are three primary reasons a resident should use the text feature: if they are speech or hearing impaired; have a medical condition where they are unable to speak like choking or suffering a stroke; or if they are in a situation like a home invasion where it is not safe to talk because it would give away your location.

“Those are all situations where texting 911 would be a viable option,” Sturch said.

Sturch said adding the Text 911 feature is an important upgrade to the county’s system. Text 911 is not available in most areas. In fact, Sturch said Crittenden County is only one of seven counties in Arkansas to have this capability. “Of the 75 counties in Arkansas, we are number seven,” Sturch said. “And I don’t believe Memphis,

Shelby or DeSoto counties or anyone in the tri-state region are text 911 capable.”

Sturch said they did their final test last Friday with Verizon, which was the last major wireless carrier in the area they needed. The county already has text capability with AT& T, Sprint, T Mobile, and C Spire.

“So that gave us 100 percent text favorability,” Sturch said. “Text to 911 is now available through any carrier in Crittenden County.”

To text 911 in an emergency, simply enter “911” in the “to” field and then hit “send.” The text should be brief and contain the location of the emergency and type of help needed. Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 responder. Also, text in simple words. Do not use abbreviations. Keep text messages brief and concise. Text 911 is the latest in a long line of recent upgrades to the 911 center since Sturch took over as director.

The center has added new equipment and sent its dispatchers to numerous training certification programs.

The dispatch center now has 100 percent of its staff certified in smart or enhanced 911 and all dispatchers are also 100 percent trained and compliant on FEMA’s incident and command management system.

Sturch said his next goal is to send all of his staff through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children certification training.

“We’re moving forward with all kinds of updates and improvements,” Sturch said. “This was just one more piece of the pie.”

By Mark Randall