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You can now text 911 for help in Chenango County

NORWICH (WBNG) — The Chenango County Sheriff’s office kicked off a new text to 911 program Thursday. It will make its way to Broome County next week.

Officials say this will help people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities. 

"We’re also making 911 available to people who may not be able to call because of a particular situation," said Chenango County Sheriff’s Office Chief Dispatcher A. Wesley Jones. "It could be a domestic incident. It could be a kidnapping situation. Things like that."

Texting to 911 in Chenango County works for all major cellphone carriers. 

You’ll need cellphone service to be able to send a text message.

Once a text message is sent to 911 it takes a few seconds and then the dispatcher will be able to hear an alert pop up on their computer screens to notify them.

The dispatcher can then reply back using automated questions or typing a response back to the caller. 

The word heartbeat on the dispatcher’s computer screen means the conversation is still active and the dispatcher hasn’t ended the call. 

If a dispatcher wants to end the call the caller will receive this text message, "The 911 operator has ended your text session."

"With this new technology that is out now it would be extremely helpful for us to pinpoint where the cellphone is to get to people that we couldn’t help before," said Daron Schultes a 911 dispatcher withe Chenango County Sheriff’s Office. 

Officials say this new method is not meant for people to replace calling 911. 

"Because of the delay in texting versus actually calling and on the phone and talking there may be pieces of information that we may not be able to get just from a time stand point," said Jones. 

Last year the Chenango County Sheriff’s Office received more than 15,000 911 calls.

Jones says he doesn’t suspect to receive that many text messages this year. 

Police say you should only text 911 for emergency situations that need an immediate response from police, fire, or emergency medical services.

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