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Delaware Co. EMS Ponders How to Accept 911 Texts

DELAWARE (Tom Bosco/Kate Liebers) -- In case of emergency, people may soon be able to text 911 instead of calling.

The Federal Communications Commission said it wants every 911 center to be able to accept text messages by the end of the year.

Delaware County 911 Director Brian Galligher said he sees the advantages of this option. For example, someone could send a picture from an emergency scene as well as get help to someone who can't speak. However, he said he worries about missing critical information.

"When somebody calls in, we're able to ask a lot of questions," Galligher said. "You may not get the whole picture because you're not able to process and ask questions."

He also expressed concerns about the traffic of information. He said the call centers already get flooded with multiple calls about the same incident. Dispatchers may have to sort through even more notifications if people are able to send texts.

"It will be challenging," Galligher said. "It will be challenging at first because it's new technology."

The county equipment is not quite up to speed yet. At the very least, software upgrades are needed, officials said.

"No one really knows the exact standard we're going to have to adhere to," said Patrick Brandt, the 911 system manager.

The center may need to hire more dispatchers, but officials said it was too early to know for sure.

The effort to allow text messages has been underway for some time. Two counties in Ohio already accept 911 texts: Geauga County, in the Cleveland area, and Hamilton County, in the Cincinnati area.

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