Local Counties Looking into Future of Texting 911

SYCAMORE (WIFR) -- Virtually everywhere we go we look around and see someone on their phone texting. Soon, we'll be able to text 911 during an emergency.

Every day DeKalb County 911 dispatcher Jeff Dallner uses everything he hears to help him and officers determine the severity of an emergency.

"You can tell a lot by a person’s voice, if they're scared, if they're anxious, if they're upset. You can also hear background noises. You know if someone is yelling in the background or maybe a gunshot in the background," Dallner said.

Soon Dallner and his colleagues will have to rely on written word in some emergencies when the department starts receiving 911 text messages, which could make first responders jobs more difficult.

"If we don't get a response immediately it could impact the officers response and what happens to that officer once they get on the scene," DeKalb County Communications Division Lt. Lisa Winckler, said.

Last month the four major wireless providers Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T began allowing the technology, but if we try texting 911 we'll get a message back saying it didn't go through. That's because counties have to update their systems to receive our texts, and that could take months.

"We are trying to investigate all of the options. We are looking at new equipment at this time but we have no date of when that would be purchased,” Glenna Johnson, DeKalb County 911 Coordinator, said.

Not only will dispatchers have to learn the new computer system, they'll also have to learn meanings of abbreviations like LOL or SMH. Even when we can start texting during emergencies dispatchers say dialing 911 is still the best option.

"Please call if you can. Text if you can't," Johnson said.

None of the counties in our area right now can accept text messages. 10 of the counties in Northern Illinois are working together to buy a system because the upgrades are expected to cost about a million dollars.

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