Camden County Begins Text-911 Program

Have an emergency, but cannot call 911? In Camden County, help can still be summoned – with a text message to 911.

Camden County officials demonstrated the system – the first of its kind statewide to go live – Thursday afternoon at the county police communications center in Lindenwold.

In the radio room, dispatchers seated before monitors can communicate via texts to learn details of the emergency and send help, Freeholder Jonathan Young said.

Rob Blaker, the county’s public safety director, said the capability to text 911 went live March 13, but was not publicized pending statewide implementation. Since then, the county system has received about 130 emergency texts.

One of the first messages involved a case of domestic violence, Blaker said. Officers were dispatched to the location and the situation was resolved.

About 80 percent of the county’s 911 calls come from mobile phones, he said.

By Friday, Young said, all 21 counties should be ready to receive and dispatch through 911 texting.

While cellphones do not automatically reveal the address of the caller or texter, cell towers relay the general area to the department.

The texting system can also translate incoming text messages through an online translator. Blaker said this system could also be useful for the hearing impaired or people with disabilities who have trouble making calls.

Christopher Winters, Pine Hill chief of police, said the tool is “tremendous” for people in situations where they cannot speak to a dispatcher on the phone. But he said this should not be the only option.

“We do need to emphasize that you should call 911 if you can,” Winters said.

856-779-3912; eserpico@philly.com

 

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