Manatee Co. 911 call center will soon begin to accept text messages

Claim it will be easier for deaf community
Posted at 5:48 PM, Mar 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-13 17:48:08-04

It’s about to get easier to report an emergency in Manatee County. Their 911 call center will soon begin to accept text messages. However, there is one problem first responders are already admitting it'll have.

The phones are always ringing in the county's busy 911 call center. But soon, telecommunicators will be answering emergencies in a completely silent way, by text.

“This will save lives," says Jacob Saur, Chief of Emergency Communications, "This is huge it’s obviously a technology advancement. We are very excited.”

While the software is still in the works, leaders expect it to be ready for public use in about six months. Then, a caller can simply text to "911" and write out a message with their location and emergency details. Immediately a telecommunicator will get their message and can send help.

“From the 80s-90s we had a large push where most 90-100% of our 911 calls were made from a landlines," said Saur.

Today, two-thirds of emergency calls come from cell phones. That’s why six other Florida counties have evolved to meet the needs of the public through Text-to-911. Not speaking can come in handy.

“A domestic violence situation, someone is trapped in a building with an active shooter..." explained Saur.

A program catching on in other states. Life-saving, especially for the more than 34 million Americans who are hard of hearing, deaf or speech impaired.

“This is a huge advancement for us to get help to them," he said.

Saur tells ABC Action News it’s already been a big success in Sarasota County over the past year. But like every piece of new technology it does have its short falls. Such as, there's no way to pin down your location.

“The technology has not caught up, it’s not available," he said, "Without you telling us your actual location, we’re not going to be able to find you.”

Right now, the county is working on getting the software, while testing begins in six months.



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