People who have emergencies in Chelan and Douglas Counties will be able to use a text message contact 911 starting Monday (August 28).

RiverCom has been working with local fire and EMS agencies, along with state partners for many months to test and implement the new system.

Executive Director at RiverCom, Doug Jones, says the new system will prove especially beneficial when emergencies happen in rural areas within the two counties.

"One of the advantages of it is when you have poor cell coverage sometimes a cellphone call can't be made but you can get text messages in and out. It also goes directly to our locating system so when you text 911, just like a call, it'll tell our telecommunicators exactly where you are."

The system not only allows users to text 911 to report an emergency but also lets dispatchers text back and forth with the person or persons involved.

Jones says Text-to-911 will also prove vital in numerous other circumstances.

"Someone who's having a medical condition where it's affecting their ability to speak or people who are hearing impaired can use it instead of calling out. Another important one is when people are in a situation where it's actually dangerous to call 911 because they have a suspect or a domestic violence situation going on and don't want someone to know they're calling 911 because it would be dangerous for them to do so, they can now send a text instead."

The new system has actually already been used to provide emergency assistance in Chelan County when an injured hiker near Colchuck Lake texted 911 last weekend while it was online for testing.

Jones says those texting to 911 should follow these guidelines:

1) Provide your exact address or location, if possible.
2) Explain the type of emergency or help that is being requested.
3) Be prepared to answer questions from 911 telecommunicators via return text.
4) Use plain language and avoid using abbreviations, symbols, emoticons or photos.
5) Keep messages brief and concise.

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