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Ohio Counties Show Little Interest in Text-to-911 Text Capabilities

Allen County, for instance, has the capability to add the software but the cost between $35,000 and $50,000 is keeping it from doing so.

by Greg Sowinski, McClatchy News Service / June 30, 2014

As technology continues to evolve, often outpacing the pocketbooks of municipal governments, the waiting time some agencies have from lack of money gives them a chance at the latest and greatest at a reduced cost.

The ability to text to 911 is a reality but it’s not something local counties have.

Russ Decker, the head of the Allen County Emergency Management Agency and Office of Homeland Security, said Allen County has the capability to add the software to the system to have that capability but the cost between $35,000 and $50,000 is keeping it from doing so.

“We didn’t opt to buy that feature but it’s something that we could add on if the money was available,” Decker said.

With nearly everyone having cellphones, texting is a big part of communications. Proponents of 911 texting point to scenarios where, for example, a burglar is in a house and a family is hiding. Rather than trying to whisper, and possibly be discovered, texting could alert a 911 operator of the problem.

“As a first responder, I do believe this can be a valuable asset to have in Allen County,” reader Aaron Cunningham wrote on Facebook. “Take many home invasions, for example. If a person can hide and text 911 to let them know what is happening, it could keep them safe for a extra minute or two to get law enforcement there.”

Allen County has Next Generation capability that was installed in August with the capability of adding the texting to 911 feature, Decker said.

Putnam County Sheriff Mike Chandler said Putnam County does not have texting capabilities on its 911 system but it’s something it will consider.

“We are looking into it, and I know it’s in the works when we do our equipment upgrades,” he said.

Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon said Auglaize County does not have it, either. It’s been discussed and may be something considered in the future but there’s not strong push to have it anytime soon.

Decker said he has never heard of any instance where someone could have used it, such as a family hiding from home invaders, not to say it couldn’t be used, however.

©2014 The Lima News (Lima, Ohio)

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