Kandiyohi County ready for text-to-911 service
WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County residents, along with the rest of Minnesota, now have the option of sending a text message via mobile phone to 911 for help in an emergency. For now, 911 texts originating in Kandiyohi County will be routed through the...
WILLMAR - Kandiyohi County residents, along with the rest of Minnesota, now have the option of sending a text message via mobile phone to 911 for help in an emergency.
For now, 911 texts originating in Kandiyohi County will be routed through the law enforcement dispatch center in Mille Lacs County, one of half a dozen regional centers that have been helping roll out the system across the state.
Over the next several months, the Kandiyohi County dispatch center will have new equipment installed and dispatchers trained so text-to-911 calls can be managed locally, Sheriff Dan Hartog said.
"Our goal is to have everything in place with our system so we can take them starting at the end of 2018," he said.
The county formalized the arrangement with Mille Lacs County this week, adopting a memorandum of understanding for the management of text-to-911 calls at no extra charge through the end of the year.
The new statewide service was announced last month by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Dispatch centers have been connected to a text-capable network since 2014 but it wasn't until this past year that training and deployment were completed.
Fewer than a dozen states in the U.S. have a text-to-911 option, which allows people to send a silent summons for help in case of fire, medical emergency or threat to personal safety. The option is a significant benefit to people with hearing loss or speaking disability, as well as those who find themselves in a dangerous situation, such as domestic violence, and are unable to speak without putting themselves at risk.
How it works: Enter the numbers "911" in the "To" field. Text the exact address and nature of the emergency, and send the message.
The Department of Public Safety encourages texters to use simple words, avoid abbreviations or emojis, and to promptly respond to questions and follow instructions.
Calls should still be the first choice for most people, the DPS said. Text messages are limited to 160 characters and the routing process may cause a slight delay in emergency response time. It's also against the law to text and drive, even in an emergency.
Whenever possible, phone calls to 911 are preferable for their ability to help give dispatchers more accurate location information and allow them to hear what's happening in real time, according to the DPS.
"If you're able to call - call," Hartog said.