Text to 911 service available statewide

By Megan Powell
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana has become the first state in the nation to employ a text 911 service statewide.

“Indiana has the largest deployment of ‘Text to 911’ in the United States,” Treasurer of the State, Kelly Mitchell said in a statement. “Since 911 was created, Indiana has been a leader in this industry. Statewide ‘Text to 911’ capabilities are yet another example of our leadership and innovation in this arena.”

Mitchell’s office said this program will play an integral part in improving the safety of Indiana residents. The service was originally designed for those who are deaf, hard of hearing or hearing impaired. But the state has discovered it has also become a valuable resource for people in situations where talking is dangerous – specifically domestic violence situations. Residents sending a text to 911 can access participating emergency service call centers instead of making a voice call. The responders can reply and hold an ongoing conversation via text.

In addition to those with hearing impairments, her office said this is especially important to know for Indiana college students who are from out of state.

“I do like that option, but I feel like it’s easier to communicate and give more information if you are talking on the phone rather than texting,” said Aigul Wilson, Kentucky resident and student at Franklin College. “Besides, if you’re in danger you tend to shake a lot due to stress and anxiety, causing you to hit the wrong button or buttons giving out the wrong information.”

Wilson, whose permanent address is 35 minutes away from the University of Kentucky, said she does not know if her state has a similar program. However, she did say she knows if she is on a college campus like UK or Franklin they have security poles that connect you instantly with campus security.

“They’re not the same as a police officer, but it’s better to get some help rather than no help till a police officer comes,” said Wilson.

Both the Statewide 911 Board and the Indiana Youth Services Association will partner with Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, and his Lifeline Law to increase public awareness to colleges and universities in the state before the start of classes.

The board found that many young people are more comfortable texting than talking. Children under 10 have even used the service in Indiana.

The board tested the program in Kosciusko County in February 2014 and by that summer 32 counties in the state had implemented the service.

Since the start of the service Hoosiers have participated in 438,000 text sessions. Now, the state sees residents using “Text to 911” more than 1,100 times per day.

“Being from out of state I feel safe especially on a small campus like Franklin because Indiana is trying to make college students feel more safe on their campus especially for those from out of state,” Wilson said. “The new texting option is just one of those ways to make students feel more safe.”

Megan Powell is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.