State officials say by the end of the year, all of Iowa’s 911 dispatchers should be able to respond to text messages. Right now, Franklin and Winnebago counties do not have the service available. According to Hancock and Winnebago County Emergency Services Coordinator Andy Buffington, that is changing shortly for Winnebago County.
Hancock County currently has the system in place, but it needs some upgrades.
Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management director Mark Schouten says text-to-9-1-1 service already has been used in Iowa when a call would have put someone in danger.
Schouten, though, cautions a call to 911 is preferable because the dispatcher can get crucial information more quickly, like your location. Pin-pointing the physical address from which a text is sent is not yet perfected. If text-to-911 is not available in a city or county, a “bounceback” message will be sent.
There are 113 emergency call centers in Iowa. All but 18 of them are able today to accept text messages from at least one cell phone carrier today, and Governor Kim Reynolds says the remaining 18 should be converted by December 31st.
Black Hawk County launched a pilot project in 2009 and began accepting text messages at its 911 call center.