Text-to-911 now offered in Walker County

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Walker County residents can now text 911 to receive emergency assistance.

The first 911 text was received at Walker County E-911 last Tuesday as part of the Text-to-911 program.

A press release from Walker County E-911 states, "With a commitment to better utilization of emerging technologies and a strong, coordinated approach to public safety, Walker County joins 9-1-1 centers across the nation in the use of text messaging as another means through which those in need can contact 9-1-1 centers and vice versa.  

While calling 9-1-1 remains the fastest way to receive an emergency response, residents in Walker County can now type 911 in the "to" field of their cellphone's messaging app and type the reason they are seeking assistance in the text message field.

"We can interact as you would on any cellphone and text message back and forth," Tim Thomas, the executive director of Walker County E-911, said. "With the new technology, with the new system, we can get a more accurate location of where the caller is at."

Thomas said the service will be especially helpful for the hearing impaired or people in situations where calling 911 could be harmful, such as during a domestic violence encounter.

"In the future, we'll have the availability to do video and still images," Thomas said.

Text-to-911 will also allow for dispatchers to determine someone's location within 19- to 26-feet of where the text is originating.  

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, SouthernLINC and Sprint have committed to support the Text-to-911 service, according to the press release; however, those in poor cell coverage zones may not have access to the life-saving service.