FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Springfield-Greene County 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Department has formally implemented ‘text-to-9-1-1” capabilities for rare cases when people are unable to communicate audibly via telephone.
“It was important to prepare and bring this capability to our area to add another way to contact 9-1-1, especially for the speech and hearing-impaired community,” said Zim Schwarte, director. “When a response is needed from police, fire, or emergency medical ambulance personnel, you can now text ‘911’ and your message will be delivered into our phone system. We will be able to text a response and determine what assistance you need.” Greene County is only one of approximately 16 counties in the state that has the ability to receive text-to-911 messages.
However, Schwartze says that voice 9-1-1 calls are still the preferred method of receiving emergency calls so the telecommunicator can talk with the person. The slogan ‘call if you can, text if you can’t’ is exactly what Schwartze wants the community to remember. Other tips include knowing your location, being brief, using plain language, and avoid abbreviations so the telecommunicator clearly understands what is occurring.
Nearly 22,000 9-1-1 calls come into the Springfield-Greene County 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Department each month, with 82% originating from mobile devices. Across the country, the number of wireless devices being used has increased dramatically. In turn, the percentage of wireless 9-1-1 calls has increased steadily, up from 58% a decade ago in the Greene County area. Recognizing this increasing number of wireless calls led the department to implement ‘text-to-911’ capabilities for our area.
In 2017, the 9-1-1 Telecommunicators in the Operations Center fielded 501,692 total phone calls (emergency and non-emergency) with just over half as 9-1-1 emergency calls.
Still to date, Missouri is the only state that does not collect any fees or tax money from wireless usage to help fund 9-1-1 dispatch centers. Several state 9-1-1 organizations continue to work towards a goal of passing statewide legislation regarding wireless funding. This legislation hopes to help many dispatch centers who struggle with appropriate funding for 9-1-1 services and assist the 16 counties that do not have any 9-1-1 call-taking equipment in place.
"We are so fortunate in our area to have had forward thinking City and County leaders in the mid-2000’s that worked together and were ahead of many Missouri counties when a 9-1-1 sales tax was passed by voters in April 2007,” says Schwartze.
The 9-1-1 department employs 77 full-time employees who provide dispatch services for 13 fire districts and nine law enforcement agencies countywide. Medical calls are immediately transferred to the appropriate local hospital for assistance. This marks the largest number of full-time employees since the department was consolidated in 2002.
“Our 9-1-1 telecommunicators must be ready to handle any type of situations that callers give them on a daily basis, including the new text-to-911 calls. Those that need help are often having their worst day and our telecommunicators are able to get the relevant information from them as quickly as possible, try to calm the caller, and dispatch the appropriate public safety personnel," Schwartze said. "I continue to be very proud of the work they do every day serving our community and public safety personnel.”
A video has been prepared to show the capabilities and process of a text-to-911 call. In addition, there are links to updated video of the Operations Room on the City of Springfield website at https://www.springfieldmo.gov/286/Cell-Phones-911-Service. We encourage the media to use the new footage of our department for news stories related to Springfield-Greene County 9-1-1.