Text to 911 coming to Lancaster County

Published: Oct. 24, 2016 at 11:18 PM CDT
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It's something we all learn at a very young age...dialing 911.

But here in the 21st century, new technology is even changing the way we call for help.

Today was a way to connect 911 officials with policy leaders to discuss what the future of 911 in Nebraska will look like in the coming years.

Several professionals all agreed that the system in place now could use some updating.

Imagine this-someone breaks into your home. You're hiding and in need of help, but one utter of a word could blow your cover.

What do you do?

What if you could text police or send a video of where you are?

This is the kind of cutting-edge technology that is in the works right now.

Its called Text to 911.

Douglas County Interim 911 Director Mark Conrey said it's technology that we should be taking advantage of.

"Anytime you have a life-saving technology that's available to you, you can't ignore it," he said.

This idea of sending multimedia messages to first responders is already happening in both Buffalo and Douglas Counties. Lancaster County is in the works.

This idea is something professionals hope the public embraces.

As the Grant Project Manager of First Net, Bob Wilhelm agrees.

"If you don't move ahead, you move backward."

Text to 911 will use First Net, a national broadband network, that makes first responders the priority.

"They won't have to compete with my grand kids to gain access to the network because it will be a separate network," Wilhelm said.

Dave Sanky, State 911 Director, says this will especially help citizens in rural areas and those with hearing problems.

"Information can be shared with the first responders and give them the most information that they need, so they can respond to our citizens."

Mark Conrey says he expects the state to use the technology in the next two years. But it's not something he says can be rushed.

With new technology comes new questions.

"Which technology are we going to use? And how are we are going to use it? It will take time."

But all agree that a change has to happen.

"It's absolutely something that is needed. It's a very exciting time for technology advancements in the public safety communication world. I think it's very important that Nebraska get on board with it," Sanky said.

Lancaster County is expected to have Text to 911 by Jan. 2017.

Text to 911 is a great advancement, but in a tweet today, Director of Public Safety Tom Casady said it was great for hearing impaired citizens and rare cases when silence is necessary. However, in all other situations it slows the process and complicates dispatcher's lives.

Calling should always be the first option.