Ada County residents are now able to text 911 when they need help during an emergency.
The 911 texting service has been a work in progress since summer 2017, according to a news release from the Ada County Sheriff’s Office. It went into effect Wednesday.
It works similarly to a phone call, with dispatchers texting in reply to a resident asking for help. Texting isn’t ideal — according to the release, officials much prefer a phone call over texting — but it is available through major phone service providers Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.
A person using the texting service still needs to provide their location to dispatchers, according to the release. When someone texts 911 for help, they receive a message reading “Ada County 911. If you can call 911 please do so. Otherwise, what is the address of our emergency?”
An address alone isn’t always sufficient however, which is why officials ask residents be as descriptive as possible when texting dispatchers about their location.
The announcement of the texting service follows months of training by dispatchers.
Thirty-six counties in Idaho have a 911 texting service. Canyon and Elmore counties do not. Unlike some other systems, though, Ada County’s service does not require the internet or a phone app — it is integrated into the same 911 system a person can use to make a phone call to dispatchers.
County officials have been working to develop the service since the county’s new dispatch center opened in 2017. Since that date, dispatchers have answered 310,562 emergency calls, and 581,473 non-emergency calls.