911 text technology has already proven a lifesaver

The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette.

Data-mining. Hacking. Cyberbullying. Spoofing.

Evil turns in technology seem ever-present. So, it’s worth celebrating when we can recognize where advances serve us well. The Journal Gazette’s Niki Kelly highlighted one with her Sunday report on texting and emergency response systems. All of Indiana’s 92 counties now have text-to-911 capability, and the new technology is proving its worth.

“Indiana is the nation’s leader,” Ed Reuter, executive director of the Statewide 911 Board, told Kelly.

Voice calls to 911 remain the best way to summon emergency help, but texting is proving invaluable in some situations, including one in which an Allen County woman was being held against her will and was able to silently seek help. In another case, a Bartholomew County woman was able to text police when her husband — angry after an argument — was driving at an unsafe speed with the woman and her child in the car.

In just four years, the number of texts to 911 has grown to between 500 and 600 a day, but without the nuisance texts authorities feared. Some texts, in fact, have been initiated by the 911 operators.

When a 911 call is dropped or disconnected, operators can send out a text to determine whether there’s an emergency. Indiana is the only state with the capability, Reuter said.

A Fort Wayne firm, INdigital, created the platform for the outbound text capability. Company president Mark Grady said a 911 dispatcher can call back after a hang-up and tell the person to hit any key if they need help but can’t speak. Then the dispatcher can hang up and text the caller.

Texting capability is proving to be a lifesaver – literally — for callers who are deaf or hearing- or speech-impaired, as well as in situations where speaking would be unsafe.

Text-to-911 is technology worth celebrating.

(Editor’s note: Jackson County has had Text-to-911 technology in place since the middle of 2014)