Three years ago, Webster County 911 implemented a text program, in hopes of assisting residents who aren’t able to call 911 themselves.
"The program is for people who have a physical disability, no connection from their phone, or in situations in which they can't call 911," said Michelle Springmeyer, public relations lead for the Webster County 911.
When a person texts 911, Springmeyer said a response will come back as a regular text message, asking for the individual’s location, a call number and if they are able to call.
"Once we get that information, we can take over from there," she said.
She added there are downsides, however, with the text program.
"The first is the speed. It takes a little longer with a text message versus a phone call. The second thing is not being able to get easy access to GPS coordinates. With a phone call, you can get coordinates of the person’s proximity of their location. A text message can't do that."
The program started back in 2016, but Springmeyer said it hasn't been used a lot since its establishment.
"We mostly get calls to 911," she said. "When the 911 text program became available and we started educating the public about it, we did have more kids messing with the service, if anything. We did have some people text 911 for assistance, but again, it was mostly calls that we got."
In September, Webster County 911 answered 6,500 calls — both emergencies and non-emergencies. There is a minimum of two people on dispatch for each shift. That is for the day shift (7 a.m. to 3 p.m.), evening (3 p.m. to 11 p.m.) and overnight (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.).
"The most calls the Webster County 911 dispatch for are for law enforcement," said Springmeyer. "We get those calls more than anything. I think that's the hardest thing about my job is hearing some of the calls that come into the center. Some are domestic abuse cases, while others are suicide attempts. It’s heavy stuff sometimes."
For emergencies, Springmeyer recommends residents call 911 first, but if they can’t, then the text program’s another option. For non-emergencies, they should call 417-859-3911.