Outagamie County residents are now able to text 911 for emergency situations. The new service is part of a technological trend aimed at helping keep everyone safe.
Every day a 911 call comes into the Communications Center in Outagamie County.
“Outagamie County 911, where is your emergency,” asked a dispatcher taking a call.
But now, those needing help can also send a text to these dispatchers, if it’s a better option.
“I think it serves a lot of underserved areas in our population,” said Sgt. Erik Nielson, director of the Outagamie County Communications Center.
The service went online recently after a $260,000 upgrade in the center’s phone system.
“It has been since May that we have been working with carriers, to test things and make sure all the pieces are in the right place,” Nielson said.
Sgt. Alex Krueger says when a text is sent it rings just like a 911 call.
“But it pops up in a text message format, that we’re able to type back too and we have some prebuilt responses that we can quickly send or free text that we can type personalized back too,” said Krueger.
It’s an alternative way to reach out for help – especially for those with speech or hearing impairments, or if caught in a dangerous situation like an active shooter event.
“This gives them the opportunity to tell us exactly what’s going on, if a person is armed, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, so we can keep the officers and first responders safe when they get there,” Krueger said.
While responding to a text takes more time than answering a phone call.
“Voice calls are superior to text messages, because we can get a lot more information, a lot faster,” Nielson said.
Still, Nielson says it’s a service that’s needed.
“It’s nice to have the next technology as it comes out, so we can keep up with what the public is doing,” said Nielson
A technological trend that has reached Outagamie County – another option for finding help.
“The mantra we are adopting is – call if you can, text if you can’t,” Krueger said.
Nearly 6,000 people in Outagamie County are dealing with hearing difficulty.