Black Hawk County expanding text to 911 service - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Black Hawk County expanding text to 911 service

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(KWWL) -

When the situation presents itself, sometimes texting 9-1-1 is your only option in an emergency. This feature will soon be something everyone in Black Hawk County will have access to. Within the next six months, Black Hawk County 911 call center will expand the service to all cell phone carriers. 

Black Hawk County has had the text to 9-1-1 service since 2009. The service has only been available for one carrier, iWireless, a local carrier affiliated with T-mobile. 

This limited the options for what Black Hawk County Communications Director Judy Flores calls a great resource, especially one that has the potential to save lives. 

Black Hawk County dispatch takes hundreds of calls a day, ready to answer in the matter of seconds.

In 2009, it was the first 911 call center in the country to accept text messages.

The text to 9-1-1 is a valuable resource especially for those who are hearing or speech impaired. 

"We think it would be good to use texting in a situation where your life is in danger, and if someone heard you call 9-1-1 it would be prevalent that something could happen," said Flores. 

Situations like the most recent Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting where family members received cries for help as the mass shooting unfolded. 

"That was a perfect example of a situation where someone, a bad guy's in the room, but if he hears you, he's going to shoot your or kill you," said Flores. "You don't want them to be able to know where you're at, so you would text 9-1-1."

And even instances like domestic abuse where Flores has seen it work first-hand.

"It was a former boyfriend who had broken in, she had hid in a room away from him, and didn't want him to know she was calling 911," said Flores.

Black Hawk County wants to educated residents to call if you can, and text if you can't.

"The dispatcher is very keen to listening when someone calls in," said Flores. "And they can hear things going on in the background. They can hear voice inflections. You can sense panic in someones voice. You can pick up on a lot of those things that you can not pick up on a text."

Despite the drawbacks of the texting service, Flores says the possibility of helping someone in a time of need far outweighs potential obstacles. 

Over these next six months, Flores says they'll also be working on getting a GPS location for those text messages.Currently, they received a latitude and longitude of the callers location from the phone calls they receive.

The Communication center serves over 130,000 residents and with the expanded service hopes to be accessible to even more. 

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