KENSOHA — There is a new way to contact emergency responders in Kenosha County. Cell phone users can now text 911 when they are in need.
The Text-to-911 program was one of the components Joint Services sought to upgrade back in 2017, but the program was recently completed this year. The capability to text 911 is beneficial for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
"This gives them the ability to talk with us directly," said Mike Blodgett, Communications Manager for Kenosha Joint Services.
It will also assist those who need help but are in a situation where they cannot speak over the phone.
"Let's say someone breaks into their home and they are hiding in a closet, obviously talking on the phone is something we don’t want them to do because that will give away their location. This gives people the ability to text," said Blodgett.
When you text 911, dispatchers receive your message on their computer screen. An automated message is then sent back asking for the address and nature of the text, from there, a dispatcher takes over.
"They would continue this conversation gathering information about the caller and the situation the caller is," said Blodgett.
Heidi Houston has been a dispatcher for almost 8 years, she said it's essential to get people to help as soon as the text or call comes in.
"It’s very important because sometimes even if they don’t say it, there is an emergency," said Houston.
On average, Kenosha Joint Services responds to about 68,000 emergency calls a year. Blodgett said if you are in a position to call 911, always dial first because there is no guarantee the text message from your phone will go through.
"This does not replace calling 911. Texting 911 does take significantly longer to get the help you need than calling," said Blodgett.
Cellphones must be on an active cell phone plan to text 911.
A few 911 texting tips from Joint Services:
- Don't use text abbreviations; use full words.
- Don't text and drive.
- If you are in a situation where talking on the phone could put you in danger, remember to silence your phone before texting 911.
- In your text, state your location, including address and municipality where you are located.
- Include a brief description of your emergency.
- Voice Calls are best!
For more information about Kenosha Joint Services visit www.kenoshajs.org