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911 Texting Begins

Greenville County residents can now send a text message in case of an emergency. Deputies say the new texting service is the first of its kind in South Carolina.

Verizon Wireless customers will now be able to text with 911 dispatchers if they find themselves in an emergency and are unable to make a call. 911 operators say the service is especially helpful for the hearing impaired, no longer requiring them to use a TDD device.

As of now, the service is only available to Verizon customers. AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have volunteered to provide text to 911 services by May 15th, 2014.  Other providers may be required to participate by then as well.

Dispatchers can text with someone who may be unable to speak if they need to be quiet, like someone who is hiding from an attacker in their home. But the sheriff says texting 911 should only be used as a backup when you can't make a call.

Texts, like 911 calls, will transmit location data so dispatchers know where you are. The sheriff says deputies will check on texters that don't respond to dispatchers. But using 911 for non-emergencies will still be against the law.

Dispatchers say this is the first important step towards the next generation of law enforcement. Eventually they hope to be setup to receive picture messages, videos, and even real-time data about pacemakers or other electronic information that can be transmitted wirelessly.


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