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Tazewell County activates Text-to-911

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TAZEWELL COUNTY (WVVA) -- 911 Centers across the U.S. are moving into the 'next generation of 911.' Part of that movement taps into the popularity of texting.

Tazewell County joined that movement Friday with the activation of 'Text-to-911.'

The program allows people to send text messages to dispatchers -- rather than call -- during an emergency.

Using the service is easy, too. If you're in an area with cell phone service, you can simply text 911. To connect to the service, your first message should say '911.'

Once you connect to the service, you will receive a response.

"The good thing about this is, as soon as you send your first text to 911, you'll get an automatic response that either we received it, or that you're in an area that doesn't have enough cell signal," said Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt.

If your location services are on, dispatchers can track your location by your phone number -- eliminating the need to provide directions over the phone.

"There are so many situations where a person may not be able to pick up the phone and talk directly about what's going on in the room they're [in]," Hieatt said. "It may be a domestic violence situation, we may have a shooter situation and a person can't pick up the phone."

"They don't even know that they've called or that they've talked to us, and we can have help there before the situation escalates," Dispatcher Edwinna Cecil added.

Hieatt also noted that the advancement is particularly important to those that are hard of hearing, deaf, or speech impaired.

"There's a system in place that they can type in [and] that will come across on our computers," he explained. "So there's something there, it just takes us longer than what it would be now that they can text us directly."

While 'Text-to-911' is beneficial in certain situations, officials say calling 911 is still the fastest way to get emergency details to dispatchers. However, for those who can't pick up the phone -- 'Text-to-911' is now an option.

Jade Burks

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