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911 Dispatchers In Pitkin County Start Accepting Texts For Help

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ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) – The state’s first “text to 911″ program is now in place in Pitkin County.

The effort is expected to help people who are in an emergency situation and can’t talk as well as people with limited cellphone service. People who are deaf should also benefit from the technology.

The program was unveiled last week and hasn’t been used for an emergency yet, but it will likely be a lifesaving tool for someone soon.

“It’s as simple as sending a text message from your cellphone to another only it ends up at 911,” said Bruce Romero, who directs the Pitkin County 911 center in Aspen.

There are some issues still being worked out. Right now the system only works with Verizon’s system, but the other major cell providers say they will have the technology in place by mid-May 2014.

Aspen (credit: CBS)

Aspen (credit: CBS)

Romero said he doesn’t expect “high utilization.”

“People, we believe, are still going to prefer the voice contact, but in certain cases I think it will be a great tool for people,” he said.

Aspen’s outdoor enthusiasts are already excited about it’s potential.

“This new text to 911 thing is so great because if something is out of your control — if there is a really bad accident, if you’re lost or if you need help — you can just text 911,” said professional skier Chris Davenport.

Romero said it’s important that anyone who sends a text to 911 be very specific about where the emergency is.

“The first message should really have your location and what is going on, and why you need the help,” he said. “That message arrives in the 911 center and a dispatcher will respond to it.”

“The world has been texting for a number of years this isn’t something new. 911 has just taken some time to catch up to it,” Romero said.

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