Oakland County to launch "Text-to-911"

Jan 26, 2015

Credit Alex Ragone / Flickr Creative Commons

Starting a week from today, if you need emergency help in Oakland County, you'll be able to text 911 – as well as call it.

"The sheriff's office in Oakland County just wants to use the latest technology available to identify callers in need," said Mel Maier, chief of  emergency management operations for the Sheriff's Office.

"People are in situations where they can't make a voice call – whether they are a victim or a witness to a crime," Maier said. For example, some people are hearing-impaired or voice-impaired, or a break-in or domestic violence could be in progress.

"We want people to call when they can – and text when they can't," said Maier.  That's because a phone conversation is a faster way than texting to obtain important details about location and the nature of the emergency. And the operator can help the caller until first responders arrive.

Maier said Oakland County is the second-busiest dispatch center in Michigan. "We get more than 500,000 emergency calls a year here at the Sheriff's Operation Center, and 84% of those calls are cellular calls."

Maier said the new "text -to-911" service will not cost Oakland County any more than its existing service over the next few years. And the county hopes by then to develop a new infrastructure that can disclose the exact location of cell phone callers, connect seamlessly with vehicle locater systems, and support the transmission of video by callers.

– Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio Newsroom