MAINE, USA — Calling 911 in the event of an emergency can be lifesaving, but now texting 911 can help those unable to make the call in their time of need.
The technology has now been implemented in centers across the state, according to an announcement made by the Maine Public Utilities Commission this week.
The new service is intended for emergency when a voice call is not practical or safe.
The Text to 911 technology has been in beta testing in a limited part of the state for a couple years, with only two communications centers handling incoming texts.
Now 24 911 centers across the state are equipped with the updated technology and can respond to text messages instantly in the event of an emergency.
Officials are urging people to always pick up the phone and call when they can.
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There has already been positive feedback about the program designed to help those who are hearing or speech impaired, as well as those needing help during a home invasion or abduction.
At the Cumberland County Regional Communications Center more than 70-percent of their calls are by cell phone.
Director Bill Holmes said he is optimistic the technology will be a benefit for the 19 communities the center serves.
“I think it’s great that the state had the vision to get the latest technology in Next Gen 911 to begin with,” Holmes said.
Here’s how it works:
1) Text your message to ‘911’ with the address of your emergency.
2) A dispatcher will message back asking questions to help get you the proper help.
3) The technology also allows dispatchers to pinpoint your location
4) You can continue to text back and forth with the dispatcher until help arrives.
The system is limited to 160-characters, and does not allow for pictures or video files to be sent.
Chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, Mark Vannoy, said it could be a “life-saver” as Maine is among the first in the nation to successfully implement the new technology.
“This is a wonderful service that we’re able to provide all of the citizens of Cumberland County and throughout the state,” Holmes said.