Metro Area 911 centers installing text messaging

JEFFERSON COUNTY, MO (KPLR) – Its common knowledge that 911 is the number to call in an emergency.  What’s not so clear is if texting 911 delivers the same result.

The outcome can depend on where you live.  Jefferson County has a 911 texting system that is up and running.  If someone is afraid a voice call could lead to more danger, they can text 911 instead.

St. Charles County does not yet have a 911 texting system in place, but expects one to be ready by January 1st, 2017.  St. Louis County Police do not have a 911 text system in place.  A department spokesman said the department is trying to put one in place in the near future.

St. Louis Metropolitan Police do not have a 911 text system, but the department’s mobile app can be used  or to send a message to detectives in the department’s Real Time Crime Center.

Herb Simmons is the 911 director for St. Clair County, IL.  He said his agency is in the process of putting the system in place.  He hopes it will be ready in the next 3 to 6 months.

Simmons believes the system could save a life.  He said a domestic dispute is a situation where one party could fear in danger is worried what will happen if the other party hears a 911 call.

“They would be able to text a message to the 911 centers and it would show up on their screens and they’ll be able to communicate back and forth, “said Simmons.  “Instead of voice to voice, it will be text to text.”

The Kansas City area implemented the system earlier this year.  The agency managing the operation is the Mid-America Regional Council.  Spokesman Hassan Al-Rubaie said the 911 texting system covers a 9 county area in Missouri and Kansas.

He said emergency agencies in the Kansas City encourage people to call 911 if they can, but to text 911 if they can’t.  He said so far only a low amount of 911 communication has come from texts.

“We’ve had a number of success stories where they were domestic violence situations,” said Al-Rubaie.

He said one reason the system was easy to implement in the Kansas City area is because all of the agencies involved use the same 911 equipment.  That’s not the case in the St. Louis area.