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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 22, 2017

Governor announces new public safety tool

Program allows Iowans to text 911
By Nicole Major, Ledger staff writer | Oct 18, 2017

During a weekly news conference Tuesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg announced a new public safety tool available to Iowans.

Text-to-911, is a statewide system which allows cellphone users to send text messages to 911 in the event of an emergency.

“Text-to-911 is a prime example of how we’re using technology to make Iowa a safer place for everyone,” Reynold’s said. “Iowans are able to send a text to 911 when a voice call would put them in danger or when a medical condition makes it impossible for them to speak. For those unable to make a call to 911, the ability to send a text in an emergency or life-threatening situation is invaluable.”

Currently, 94 of Iowa’s 113 emergency call centers are able to accept text messages from at least one cellphone carrier. The remaining call centers are expected to have the capability by the end of the year.

"Currently, we are in the process of looking at all options and will be reviewing those shortly," said Jefferson County emergency management coordinator Brett Ferrel. "We plan to be Text-to-911 capable soon."

Text-to-911 is a nationwide initiative. The Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management oversees Iowa’s 911 program, and has worked with local public safety agencies and wireless carriers to build a statewide network and make Text-to-911 technology possible.

According to a news release, in some areas of the state, not all cell service carriers have the necessary technology in place to send texts to the 911 call centers that are capable of accepting them. The providers are working to make this service available as soon as possible.

“Most Iowans use smartphones and other communication devices that offer texting capabilities,” said HSEMD director Mark Schouten. “That’s why we must be able to use this technology to increase the safety of our citizens.”

Residents in counties currently accepting texts to 911, should check with their carrier to find out about availability in their area. Six wireless carriers do or will in the near future, provide their customers with the ability to text 911, and those are: AT&T; iWireless; Sprint; T-Mobile; U.S. Cellular and Verizon.

For more information, visit: homelandsecurity.iowa.gov.

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