WHITING, Ind. – There is a nationwide push to enable cell phone users to reach 911 through text messages. While officials say that calling is still the best option, they recognize three distinct situations in which texting 911 is a crucial ability. The first is if the person in need is speech or hearing impaired. The second is if you are experiencing a medical emergency that makes speech difficult or impossible, such as a stroke. The third is if you are in a situation in which speaking would endanger your safety or life.

Emergency phone calls go directly to a 911 center, but soon residents of LaPorte County, Indiana, will have the ability to text 911.

Indiana’s 911 director says 75 to 80 percent of all 911 calls come from a cell phone, which is why texting will soon be an option.

Right now, Lake, Newton and Jasper counties do not have the ability to send or receive texts from 911. According to state 911 officials, Lake County is working on a consolidated 911 center and should have the texting capability by the end of the year.

If you’re in Porter County, you can only receive texts 911. LaPorte County, however, will soon be online for receiving and sending texts to 911. And this is how it works.

Texters send their messages to 911. About 15-20 seconds later, the text message pops up in the 911 center, and the dispatcher types a reply. It does take longer than a phone call.

“Phone calls are still the best,” said Mike Gorbett, a 911 dispatcher. “They’ll give us the best information and the best location of where you’re at.”

Right now, Verizon Wireless is the first company to provide this service. T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T have voluntarily committed to provide service as well.

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