LEESBURG — If you were to text 911 on your cellphone, you would get a message saying that text services are not available in your area and asking you to call 911.
But what if you are speech and/or hearing impaired, or you’re in a situation where you feel afraid to talk?
That problem may soon be solved in Lee County.
The Lee County Commission approved an agreement for Texty, a text-to-911 service by Ryan Public Safety Solutions, in Tuesday’s meeting.
Nikki Celinski, the county’s E-911 coordinator, said Lee County will be the first county in the area to have a text-to-911 service. Currently, most of the counties in Georgia with this type of service are located in the metro Atlanta area.
Celinski said that although it is best to call 911 whenever possible, this service does have its benefits.
“First and foremost, we want you to call 911 if possible, but there are some situations where you can’t,” Celinski said. “If you don’t feel safe, you can always text. It just gives a better option for people who might not feel they have the option to call 911.”
“It does sound like a good idea for someone who’s got somebody in the house (where) they can’t talk,” said Commission Chairman Billy Mathis.
A representative from Ryan Public Safety Solutions said while the percentage of people who text rather than call in the states and counties using Texty is still relatively low, it is often important issues that might not have made it through otherwise.
He also said the text service allows dispatchers to text people who have called 911 and then hung up rather than just call back, and that has increased the number of responses in the areas utilizing the service. People are more likely to text back and explain what happened than they are to pick up the phone and explain. The increased response saves public safety officers time and resources.
Although the agreement was approved Tuesday, Celinski said that they still have to finalize the contract with Texty and Ryan Public Safety Solutions.
“Once we get a contract signed, they’ll start on their end going through the FCC and the phone companies,” Celinski said. “Once it’s up and running, we’ll let everybody know they can text 911.”