NJ county begins text-to-911 program
Officials hope that the new service will help during home invasions, domestic abuse situations and other violent encounters
LINDENWOLD, N.J. — If you can’t call 911, you can text it.
Starting this week, Camden County residents will be the first in New Jersey to be able to text 911 to contact emergency assistance.
A dedicated text dispatcher will be there to answer the messages in real-time — just as they would a phone call, reports the Courier-Post.
“It’s just that, it’s text 911,” said Camden County freeholder Jonathan Young. “What we envision is that this is probably the next generation of 911.”
Dispatchers are trained to first ask, “Can you make a voice call?” If not, they can select from a drop-down menu of pre-written messages to send, mostly constructed around gathering as much information about the emergency as possible.
Officials hope that the new service will help during home invasions, domestic abuse situations and other violent encounters where being heard on the phone with the police could worsen the situation.
"You can imagine a kid in a classroom where (there's a shooter and) they can't talk," Young said. "Now they can actually text to the dispatcher where they are, how many people are in the room, and how many shooters there are."
Since March, the communication center has taken 100 requests for 911 assistance from texts, officials said. Google Translate is available to answer messages that aren’t written in English.
Statewide rollout of Text-to-911 is currently in progress.