By Amber Bartley
Indiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell visited FC and New Albany High School on Aug. 12. She sat down with Bagpiper Editor-in-Chief Braden Schroeder and Managing Editor Amber Bartley to discuss the importance of Text to 911.
Text-to-911 is a service from cellular providers that allows people in an emergency situation to text 911 instead of calling. Mitchell said it can be useful in a situation where the person does not want to be heard.
“It was originally implemented to help hard of hearing people or people who are having a hard time speaking. We are also finding it is being used by people who don’t want to be heard and we really want to get the word out to schools, colleges, and universities. Any time you have an active shooter, you don’t have to make a call and be heard if you’re hiding. You can text for help,” said Mitchell.
According to Mitchell, Text-to-911 can also be helpful when someone is uncomfortable with talking to a stranger on the phone.
“I’ve read transcripts between an 11-year-old and a dispatcher. The 11-year-old just felt more comfortable texting and explaining the situation at her house. While she was texting with the dispatcher, the dispatcher was calling and trying to find this child’s parents but keeping her in the conversation by texting. That was a much more comfortable zone for that 11-year-old to be in rather than be on the phone talking to an adult that she didn’t know,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell emphasized making the first text as descriptive as possible to make it easier for dispatchers to know the information they need to send help.
“We want to make sure people understand is that they put their location in the text. It’s very difficult to locate someone by a text message if we don’t know where you’re at, so put your address in the text. Even general area is absolutely fine,” said Mitchell.
Indiana and Vermont are the only places in the U.S. that offer this service statewide. However, other states will be watching Indiana and Vermont to see how this program works.
“Each state seems to be setting their own schedules. Some are just doing a city and testing it that way. Indianapolis was the first metropolis in the country to have this on December 15th of last year. They starting having text to 911. The interesting difference between Indiana and Vermont is we have two of those PSAP’s (public safety answering points) for each one of our 92 counties. Vermont has two PSAP’s in the whole state. Really, the world is watching Indiana. It’s a really exciting place to be in,” said Mitchell.
Although texting can be helpful in an emergency situation, Mitchell emphasized the importance of calling 911. She said it is important for a dispatcher to hear the caller, the background, and be able to ask the caller questions.
“It is by no means replacing voice calls and we do not want it to. We always emphasize ‘Call if you can, voice is best,’” said Mitchell.