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McLean County dispatchers will offer a 911 emergency texting option

Dispatchers working at emergency call center
WGLT file photo
Telecommunicators at work in the Bloomington Communications Center at the Bloomington Police Department.

Emergency dispatch centers in McLean County will start a new text-to-911 service next week.

The service will be available for calls to the Bloomington Communications Center and Metcom, which handles the county’s emergency calls outside of Bloomington.

Rhonda Flegel, executive director of the McLean County 911 center, said the text option should only be used when a phone call isn't possible during an emergency, such as the caller is hard-of-hearing, speech-impaired or potentially in danger if they speak out loud.

Rhonda Flagel
Rhonda Flagel

“I think it’s a game changer for the communities and the people that need it,” Flegel said.

Flegel said the first 911 emergency text should include the location and type of emergency. She said texters should text in simple words and give short messages (up to 140 characters) in English without abbreviations or slang. Flegel said texters also should be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the dispatcher.

Flegel stressed calling 911 is still the fastest way to get a response.

“There might be some slight delays with responding back and forth, just because with any kind of text, it takes a little time, but we’ll get the help there as fast as we can,” said Flegel, adding it may be more difficult to track messages if there are a large volumes coming in during a large-scale incident.

Flegel said dispatchers will type responses to the texting service, but dispatchers will have some auto-generated responses to speed up the conversation.

The new service will be available starting Sept. 19.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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