Edmonson County residents may now let the local emergency dispatch center know something’s wrong via text.
Pat Prunty, director of the Edmonson County Dispatch Center, said the Central Kentucky 911 Network recently updated some of its technology, making dispatches in the network capable of receiving texts after undergoing an upgrade.
“It’s become available and the network we’re a part of was making it available so I didn’t see a reason not to,” he said. “They were upgrading the technology to do it.”
Prunty said county residents can text the dispatch by typing a message and addressing it to 911.
Enabling text capability required an equipment upgrade on the dispatch’s part, Prunty said, adding that the cost of the upgrade was about $8,500.
Edmonson County Sheriff Shane Doyle said he likes the concept.
“I think any time that we can expand our ability to serve the public, that’s a good thing,” he said.
Doyle said the new text capability will be particularly valuable to people who are mute, deaf or hard of hearing.
“We’re expanding our ability to deal with disabilities,” he said.
The ability to text to the dispatch could also be a life-saver, in a literal sense, if a person in danger needs to reach dispatch silently to avoid revealing their location.
Despite its usefulness in certain situations, Doyle said he still prefers that people call the dispatch to report emergencies if they are able.
“It’s just easier and quicker to get that information when you’re talking,” he said, adding that environmental factors that can be heard over the phone, such as background noise and the caller’s tone of voice, can reveal additional information about the scene.
All emergency responders in Edmonson County are informed of calls for service via the dispatch, Prunty said.
The texting program has been live since June 26, though the dispatch has found some bugs in the system that could prevent some from reaching the dispatch via text.
Some newer phones, notably iPhone XR models, are not currently compatible with the system in Edmonson County.
“The technology is so new in that phone that it’s looking for towers that also have that newer technology,” he said.
People might also have trouble texting the dispatch depending on where they are and the sort of cellphone service they have, Prunty said.
For now, the dispatch can only pick up signals for texts if they bounce off the signal bounces off an Edmonson County cell tower, he said.
“You have to be able to hit a tower in Edmonson County for it to work,” he said.
Edmonson County Dispatch Center’s text capability comes roughly four months after the Barren-Metcalfe Emergency Communications Center gained the ability to take calls for help via text.
Additionally, an effort to make the Bowling Green Police Department’s dispatch, which also provides the Bowling Green Fire Department and the Warren County Volunteer Fire Department with calls for service, capable of receiving texts has been underway since at least 2017.
Amelia Bowen, BGPD’s communications manager, said the department is working with AT&T, which is making the necessary upgrades to the dispatch’s software.
While Bowen said she expects the dispatch to be text-capable in a few months, she has not received any timetable from AT&T.
“That ball’s in their court and they haven’t really given us a deadline,” she said.