Editorials

Tarrant, Dallas lag on text-to-911

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Text-to-911 could be best way to summon help in some circumstances.
Text-to-911 could be best way to summon help in some circumstances. Getty Images

It’s alarming — distressing, really — that Tarrant and Dallas counties aren’t further along on implementing emergency response service via text messaging, what’s known as “text-to-911” service.

It wouldn’t be so distressing except that most North Texas counties already have text-to-911 capability through the North Central Texas Council of Governments Regional 911 program, which covers 44 call centers in 16 counties.

It seems downright dangerous that residents of so many nearby counties might become accustomed to text-to-911 service being available, only to fall into a black hole of no such service should they visit one of the region’s two large urban areas.

The danger is low for now. Most people in emergency situations prefer to talk directly to a 911 dispatcher.

But there are times when text-to-911 could be a lifesaver. Experts cite examples such as deaf or hearing-impaired people needing emergency help, and kidnapping or spousal abuse situations in which a victim could face enhanced danger if a call were overheard.

Houston, which has had text-to-911 service for about two years, gets about 360,000 emergency calls and about 1,400 texts a month. The service also is available in San Antonio.

Tarrant County doesn’t expect to implement it until the first quarter of 2018, and there is no timetable at all in Dallas County. That’s not good.

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