Passing time always brings with it new technologies, and emergency procedures are no exception. Cell phone technology is giving rise to the idea of text messaging to 911 in case of emergency.
Kentucky State Police Post 10 Commander P.J. Burnett said that while KSP dispatchers do not take text messages directly, there is a similar method already in use.
“We have a program called ‘text a tip,’ it’s completely confidential,” said Burnett. “You can use any personal or electronic device with texting capabilities. You simply text 67283 in the address field and type KSP tip in the message field. Leave a space after that and leave information about the crime you’re wanting to report.”
Burnett said the process is completely anonymous.
“If somebody texts, it goes to Frankfort,” said Burnett. “They will field those texts and send it out to the proper post…it will be sent to our telecommunicators and then that information will be looked at for investigative thoroughness.”
Burnett said there is no program presently in place in the Post 10 coverage area for 911 texts to be sent directly to dispatchers.
According to Burnett, the best way to contact police in case of an emergency is still a traditional 911 call.
“We can get real-time information right then,” said Burnett. “Dispatchers know what questions to ask that person that’s requesting assistance. If you’re just sending a text, you wouldn’t know all the stuff that we need, like who’s the perpetrator, what’s your location, what’s your surroundings, things of that nature.”
Burnett pointed out that emergency texts to 911 could be useful in certain emergency scenarios, such as if a person needed to contact police from inside a home and they felt like they could be heard by someone intending harm.
“We daily are looking at using innovative techniques to better serve the community,” said Burnett.
Burnett mentioned that as a result of residents increasingly relying on text messaging to communicate — especially the younger generation — he does see a day coming when text messaging 911 is a viable option. He also mentioned there are many people having their land lines removed and using cell phones exclusively for telephone communication.
Burnett said KSP does not have the technology at this time to pinpoint calls or messages coming from a cell phone, but he expects this capability to be available in the future.
In Bell County, Director of Bell County Emergency Management Director Ben Barnett said he believes local implementation of the program is only two years away. The obstacles for this sort of project include expense and lack of networking that will support the project.
Barnett recently applied for a grant to Commercial Mobile Radio Services for $283,000 that will allow BCEMS to have adequate funding for the creation of a network that will support text-to-911, including the Computer Aided Dispatch System.
“The CAD system will handle maps, call information, logs and all of the software behind it that allows someone to respond to an emergency text,” said Barnett.