Midland County 911 Services to Launch Texting Capabilities

By Abby Reed
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - Midland County Commissioners have agreed to pump $750,000 dollars into the County's 911 emergency services.  Their plan is to use that money to fund a new program that will allow dispatchers to receive not only emergency phone calls, but emergency text messages.

The project is called "Next Generation" and will allow people in the area to send text messages or text pictures to Midland County dispatchers in the event of an emergency.

Joyce Britcher, Director of Midland County Emergency Services, has been with the department for 21 years.  During that time, she said she has seen technology advance in numerous ways.  She said she excited to be a part of the new advances with texting.

One big reason the department is working toward this project is to help residents who rely on a "Telecommunication Device for the Deaf" or TDD.

"The old TDD's that they used to carry around and plug into everything, they'll no longer have to do that. They'll be able to send text from their cell phones, their computers, things of that nature," Britcher said.

However, the text messaging isn't exclusive to the hearing impaired. 

"You get kidnapped and you can't call because you don't want the person who's kidnapped you to hear.  Text messaging would obviously be the best way to get ahold of 911," Information Manager, Vonda Gafford, said.

Gafford has been efforting the project for 5 years now. She, along with Britcher, are looking forward to serving the community.  She believes the texting capabilities will help people who see crimes happen.

"You see a hit and run, but you can't get the license plate number.  Who doesn't have a phone with a camera on it anymore, that can't just snap a picture?" Gafford said.

The new technology would allow pictures to be sent to dispatchers, who can then pass it along to law enforcement.

"You're never through, it just constantly changes.   But if we can get this service for the citizens to the best of our ability with what's out there today, that's our goal," Britcher said.