Traditional 9-1-1 services have been a principal public service tool for Hoosiers for many years to report a crime, a fire, or to seek emergency care. In fact, Huntington, Indiana was the first city in the United States to implement the program in 1968.
Now, 9-1-1 in Indiana has evolved by giving people an additional method of access to police, fire, and emergency medical attention through text messages on their mobile phone. This week, after a four-year roll out, the state announced that all 92 counties in Indiana can now accept text messages to their dispatch centers. Allowing people to report crime discreetly, to quickly summon police in domestic violence situations, or give hostages an avenue to report their captivity without having to draw attention to themselves through speech.
Before the complete implementation of the texting program, dispatch centers in pilot counties received an average of 500-600 text messages per day, potentially allowing more people to access assistance who otherwise may not have if their only option was to physically make a phone call.
IN911, a state operated service overseeing emergency dispatch services, also reminds people of some of the limitations around this new service. Some of those limitations are listed below, with a comprehensive listing found here, https://www.in911.net/text-to-911.html. When possible, emergency responders caution users to whenever possible, make a call to 9-1-1 to ensure that all information can be collected by an emergency dispatcher. If you do choose to send a message, below are some limitations to the service you may want to be aware of:
- Exact location information is limited, be sure to send your exact location in any message submitted
- Keep messages short but avoid abbreviations or “slang” as this may cause confusion
- Do not send photos in your message
- Delays in the emergency response rate may take place if messaging between you and the dispatcher requires constant clarification or explanation of your situation