Marshall County E911 tests new texting service

MARSHALL COUNTY — If you’re in Marshall County, you can now send a text message to 911. The Marshall County E911 Center says that option should be used in situations when you can’t make a phone call.

“There’s obviously so many situations where people can’t call us. We need to know where they are if it’s a home invasion or a burglary or some type of assault,” says Shelia Day, who has worked as a dispatcher for seven years.

Carol Ann Lee has never called 911, but she often thinks of situations when she might need too. “It’s a security blanket. When you need help, you can call them, and they’re going to be there, and you know help is on the way,” Lee says.

The line stays active for 20 minutes after you send your first text.

Ayla Conner sent the first text to the 911 center as a test. She is a middle school student in Marshall County. Conner says she feels safer going to the high school with this system after the shooting last year.

“If you were in a place were there was something bad happening and you felt like the suspect can hear you make the call, you can text, and it would be silent and they couldn’t hear you,” Conner says.

The text goes through Indigital, a company based in Indiana. Marshall County E911 Director Chris Freeman says there is no lag time. Your text will go directly to dispatchers.

Marshall County dispatchers say even with the new service, you should call 911 if at all possible. Freeman says tracking your location through a text message is less accurate than a phone call. “It’s not meant to replace the actual phone call,” he says. “We still need to talk to you if we can. We need to know what’s going on in the background,” he says.

Freeman says he doesn’t know offhand the exact cost of the texting service to the county, because the project started before he took his new position. That cost depends on the population served by the dispatch center and call volume. He says he has not seen the quote, but he has used the system in other counties similar to Marshall County. “I know my quote where I was at. It was less than $5,000 a year for me for two counties, so I would say its quite lower here for one county,” he says.

Lee says it gives her piece of mind they have the option. She says texting 911 is something she can teach her grandchildren to use when they’re out of her sight. “Especially a bathroom with three or four stalls with people going in and out, and they come out and people try and watch them, but if something were to happen, most of the kids have cell phones. They can get some help,” she says.

Freeman says you will also be able to send videos and pictures to 911 in Marshall County in the future.