BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Calling for help. That’s what 911 is about. But what if you can’t speak or hear?
Alex DeMetrick reports Frederick County is one of the first jurisdictions in the country to meet that need.
It’s a standard greeting: “Baltimore City 911. Operator 1232. Where’s your emergency?”
But what if you can’t hear the question, or say where that fire is burning or where that ambulance is needed?
At Frederick County’s 911 center, they have expanded beyond voice communication. Verizon customers can text 911.
“It will be just like a chat session people may be familiar with, where both messages will pop up–the message from the caller and then the text we’re typing to reply,” said Jack Markey, Director, Frederick County Emergency Management. “And we’ll lead them through a series of questions to dispatch the appropriate resources.”
Frederick County is an early adopter of this technology for a good reason.
It is the home of the main campus of Maryland’s School for the Deaf, where many on staff see a real need for texting 911.
“And something happens and we can’t help. We have to call someone, you know what I mean, we can’t call,” said Rex Moers, Dean of Students.
Frederick County is among the first jurisdictions to enable texting. It’s won’t replace voice calls, but hopes to fill a gap in communicating.
“This is the first step of many that will lead to a national program that’s available everywhere,” said Markey.
“The technology is going to be really helpful for us,” said Moers.
The ability to text 911 could also save lives in the event of a home invasion or workplace attack when a caller may be hiding, and doesn’t want to give himself away by talking.