A new service that will allow Franklin County residents to text emergencies to 911 dispatchers will go live Wednesday, Jan. 23, according to Cecilia Weirick, regional 911 communications coordinator for the Franklin County Office of Homeland Security and Justice Programs.

Franklin County commissioner Marilyn Brown will announce the text-to-911 capability, which will work throughout the county subject to cell signal availability, according to a media advisory from the commissioners.

A press event Jan. 23 will include demonstrations of the technology.

To text 911, users would enter "911" into the recipient field of their mobile device and text a brief but detailed message that includes location and the type of emergency.

Texters would get a message if the text has not been received by dispatchers, Weirick said. Texts to 911 dispatchers can't be sent as part of a group text message, and emojis also can't be used, she said.

Dispatchers also cannot receive video or photos right now, although the capability for that could be introduced in the future, Weirick said. Safeguards would need to be put in place for potential collection of evidence, she said.

"We're just taking it one step at a time," she said.

The ability for Franklin County’s public-safety dispatching centers to accept and respond to text messages to 911 is the culmination of years of hard work by representatives from several communities’ public-safety agencies and other stakeholders within the county, said Jeff Spence, chief of the Gahanna Division of Police.

"It was truly a team effort to bring this emerging technology to our residents in order to provide another method in reaching 911 dispatchers when a voice call is not possible and seconds count," he said.

Jay Somerville, bureau director of technical services for the Dublin Police Department, said Dublin officials are excited to be part of text-to-911 because it offers a safe alternative when calling is not an option because of safety issues, physical limitations or hearing impairment.

“Text-to-911 is not meant to replace phone calls but gives our residents an option," he said. "Remember, call if you can, text if you can’t.”

New Albany and all the Franklin County partners have been working closely to come up with a way to be able to implement the text-to-911 program, and New Albany is happy to be a part of the services that will be offered, said New Albany spokesman Scott McAfee.

Gahanna Mayor Tom Kneeland said he has been involved in the text-to-911 initiative since the 1980s and is excited to see it come to fruition.

"Having this new service offers another great option for those seeking assistance in emergency situations to get help when they need it the most," he said.

For more information, go to text911.franklincountyohio.gov.

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