Following Kenosha County’s lead, Racine County recently rolled out its own text-to-911 system as part of a $200,000 system upgrade.
That is a step in the right direction—a step toward making 911 texting universal across the state and ultimately the nation.
The 911 number is a life-saver. Unfortunately, there are times when you cannot call 911 and you need to text.
Those times include if a person is deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired; in an area with poor cell coverage; or in danger if someone hears them making a call, such as an active shooter or domestic situation.
Officials said a voice call to 911 is still the best option, as dispatchers can process the call much quicker and obtain a location, a release from Racine County stated. But sometimes that is not possible.
In Walworth County, the sheriff’s office is planning to upgrade its 911 system in 2023 and as part of that they want to add text-to-911 capability, although it does add about $50,000 to the project, said Walworth County Administrator Mark Luberda.
Saving lives is worth that extra money.
People shouldn’t have to wonder if they are in a county where texting 911 works. They should be able to do it. Rock County has had text-to-911 service since 2015.
As part of Gov. Tony Evers proposed 2021-23 budget, there is about $25 million budgeted to upgrade the 911 system, and it is money that should be prioritized.
Over time 911 has evolved. Basic 911 service was first established in the 1960s as a voice-only service, meaning that the caller had to provide location and callback information verbally in order to receive assistance, according to an informational paper from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau detailing 911 services and proposed funding for the next budget.
In the 1980s, the system was upgraded to enhanced 911, which automatically recorded the caller’s landline telephone number and address. The system was last updated in the 1990s to “Wireless Enhanced 911,” which provides a mobile caller’s number and approximate location.
It’s time for 911 to evolve again to help emergency responders do their job saving people, this time with the help of text messaging.
It is worth the investment.