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By Kara Hackett
Hoosiers with Verizon cell phones can text 911 starting today in 28 Indiana counties, including much of northeast Indiana.

911 texting begins, but call is best bet in most cases

INDIANAPOLIS – Hoosiers with Verizon cell phones can text 911 starting today in 28 Indiana counties, including much of northeast Indiana.

Allen County 911 currently can only send texts but is expected to be able to receive inbound 911 texts within a few days. Most carriers and counties should be online by July.

Law enforcement officials cautioned Wednesday that calling 911 is still the best option.

“In most circumstances a call is best,” said Indiana State Police Captain David Bursten.

Texting is encouraged for callers who are deaf, hearing or speech-impaired; if a caller is otherwise unable to speak due to a medical condition such as a stroke or if speaking would be unsafe, such as during an abduction or home invasion.

Barry Ritter, executive director of the statewide 911 board, said right now between 75 percent and 80 percent of all 911 calls come from a cell phone.

He said Hoosiers use their phones as alarm clocks, to receive pharmacy reminders and to provide entertainment.

That’s why the state’s system is taking the next step to receive 911 texts in emergency situations.

“Starting today public safety has taken a major step forward,” he said.

Fort Wayne-based INdigital telecom currently operates the statewide IN911 network. And the company built and supports the text-to-911 software.

A demonstration showed it takes 20 to 30 seconds from sending a text to receipt in a 911 center.

It narrows down a location but isn’t exact, meaning the operator will ask for an address and any other information needed to help with the emergency.

There is no cost to counties to sign on, which is voluntary. Ritter said 66 counties have agreed and are at various stages of implementation.

Three major counties – Marion, Lake and St. Joseph – have operational issues or are consolidating their 911 centers and are not currently participating.

That means about 25 percent of the state’s population still won’t have access to the technology.

Anyone who tries to text 911 in a county that doesn’t have the capability will receive a bounce-back message saying to call 911.

At a glance

Here is the status of area counties regarding receiving 911 texts:

  • Adams – active
  • Allen – expected in a few days
  • DeKalb – active
  • Huntington – active
  • Kosciusko – active
  • LaGrange – active
  • Noble – active
  • Steuben – pending
  • Wabash – active
  • Wells – active
  • Whitley – active