Hillsdale County 911 to start receiving text messages

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JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — When you need to call 911, reliable phone service can make a big difference in an emergency.

Hillsdale County is making plans to improve its 911 service by adding text messages.

Smartphones are lifelines we depend on.

But in some Michigan counties, text messages for help are going unanswered

“And that’s why for the last one and a half to two years we’ve been working toward this purchase,” said Doug Sanford, Director of Hillsdale County Central Dispatch.

Earlier this month, Hillsdale County approved a new phone system for its central dispatch center.

Dispatch director Doug Sanford says the new system brings Hillsdale into the 21st century by receiving text messages from cell phones.

“We’re excited to be able to finally do what a lot of places in Michigan and around the country are already able to do,” Sanford said.

Around 80 percent of the calls that come into the dispatch center are made from cell phones.

So the director says it’s very important for dispatchers to meet people where they’re at.

When someone texts 911, the message will appear in front of a dispatcher.

“That screen will allow the give and take between two people sending and receiving texts,” Sanford said.

Dispatchers will be trained on the latest text lingo for quick communication.

“There will be shortcuts they can copy and paste to ask the questions we normally ask,” Sanford said.

Sanford says this can help people in dangerous situations.

“Perhaps someone feels threatened if they make a call in an environment where they might be heard talking. Perhaps they’re in an environment that’s too loud. A text will get help started,” Sanford said.

Sanford says the new system allows dispatchers to receive pictures sent from cell phones.

They hope to start receiving messages by the middle of 2018.

“We’re just glad to do the best we can to help the citizens of Hillsdale County,” Sanford said.

Dispatch services in Ingham, Clinton, Eaton, and Livingston counties already accept text messages to 911.

Jackson County Central Dispatch expects to start receiving text messages in 2018.

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