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After years of work, Blount County offers ability for community to text 911 in emergency

In an emergency, officials recommend calling if you can, texting if you can't.

BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — In an emergency, seconds matter, but sometimes the situation doesn't allow people to pick up the phone. 

Blount County E-911 Communications Center has been working on the ability to text 911 for more than two years. That service launched earlier this month for people in the county. 

The new technology now gives people options when calling for help. They've received three texts since launching June 1. 

"911 is a very technical profession," said director James Long. "When a person sends a text, we receive it in our dispatch center. It sounds an alarm telling our dispatchers that a text has come in."

It's an important option for everyone, especially the hearing impaired. "Wherever they're at they can reach out for help now through text messages and had to use another system prior to that."

A dispatcher responds immediately getting the critical information they need to alert first responders. 

Long said there's also a system in place if the text isn't in English. 

"We have a certain amount of canned messages to allow an English speaking dispatcher to initially respond to that text in another language and get help as we go along to interpret," he said.

In an emergency, he recommends calling if you can, texting if you can't. 

The text should include your location and the problem, along with details so dispatchers can be quick to get you help. 

Long said the E-911 center is always looking at new technology. Staying ahead of the time for the safety of their community. 

"We want to make sure we're doing everything we can to provide the citizens in our community, the fastest, most competent and compassionate service we can provide. Because when you need help you don't want any excuses. You want help on the way. That's our job and what we try to do," he said.

Future technology could include being able to send videos as first responders are on the way. 

You can text 911 in Loudon County. The option is still not available in Knox County. 

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