911 Texting Coming to the Pennsylvania Suburbs Soon
Soon, residents in the Pennsylvania suburbs will be able to reach 911 dispatchers by text message.
Montgomery, Chester, Bucks, and Berks Counties agreed Thursday to jointly implement the new technology. Montgomery County officials, who are administering the regional effort, hope to have it up and running by early 2015.
That will require new equipment and software and, more important, training dispatchers how to handle emergencies reported in 160 characters or less.
"There are plenty of times when the person who needs assistance does not want to be overheard, when a telephone call is not a good idea," said Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr. "Talking is better, but we don't want to alert a bad guy, if somebody is hiding or whatever."
Besides helping victims of kidnappings or home invasions, 911 texting would be useful for people who are deaf, mute, or experiencing a speech-disabling issue such as a stroke.
The dispatchers will be able to respond, ask questions, and converse via text message. But in most instances, officials say, calling 911 would still be faster and more precise.