Created: July 13, 2022 07:53 PM
ONTARIO, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Ontario County Sheriff's Office has an "updated tool" when it comes to its 9-1-1 emergency system. News10NBC finds out how it's designed to enhance their "Call If You Can, Text If You Can't" in an emergency situation.
The way the system was originally set up was for one-way communication. You call 9-1-1, and you get the operator. Now the operator has the ability to call you if you can't connect with them.
Technology has come a long way now that most of us carry smartphones. Since 2016, the Ontario County 9-1-1 Center has been able to answer a text message of someone in need, but couldn't text back. The system did allow operators to call the phone that dialed 9-1-1, but often times the call went straight to voicemail. 9-1-1 Chief Stephen DeChick says the new system changes all that.
"If we get to voicemail we're going to send a text, and that text is going to say 'hey this is 9-1-1', and your phone dialed in," said DeChick.
He says the new Texting To 9-1-1 system is quite beneficial, especially when a person in need of the police can't speak.
"Unfortunately we do take those calls periodically even from a scared child who might be hiding in a closet, or a victim of abuse who unexpectedly the abuser comes back, and they need help and they're afraid that the person is gonna hear them," said DeChick.
Voice calls are always preferred, according to DeChick.
"Listening to the tone of their voice, you know get the idea of what's going on. However, we understand that certain people physically cannot do that because of a medical condition. They might be a deaf caller, or they might be in danger. So now we're going to send that text to say call if you can, text if you can't. Hey, we're here. We got the message, is everything okay?" said DeChick.
And the new system takes care of one common problem for 9-1-1 operators.
"Now with smartphones, it's pretty easy to dial 9-1-1 accidentally. So the majority of those calls we call back, we interview the person. We follow our other procedures, and we're still probably going to send a car quite honestly. If we know where they are we're gonna make sure, and send one patrol car," said DeChick.
He goes on to say, with the old system the 9-1-1 Center took in an average of two or three 9-1-1 texts per month. None yet for the new system. He also says text to 9-1-1 is available throughout New York State, which has been funded by state leaders to 9-1-1 centers that couldn't afford the system.
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