4 more counties add text 9-1-1

Altoona, Pa. - If you live in Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon or Fulton counties and you can't call 9-1-1, you can now text 9-1-1 in order to reach help.

The new feature is now live in those four counties. It's designed to help those in situations where it's unsafe to call or to help those that are hard of hearing. Officials say that when you text 9-1-1, you get access to the same resources as if you call. 

Bedford County EMA Director Dave Cubbison explained, "Resources will be able to dispatched just as normally. You'll communicate directly with a 911 staff person just as you would, except it is in type form."

This new tool is the result of a cooperation between county officials that began in 2014. Since then, they've been able to create a redundancy between each 9-1-1 center so that everything is same across the board.

Blair County Director of Public Safety Mark Taylor said, "Let's say we had to vacate this center. We're getting set up for where Huntingdon and Bedford can take our 9-1-1 calls so that they are not dropped. Similarly, the equipment is familiar do if they send dispatchers here or we send dispatchers there. They are all using the same equipment being able to get to work better with more efficiency."

Officials are encouraging people to call 9-1-1 as the first option and use the text feature as a back up. At this time, they aren't able to track your location when you text so they ask that the first thing that you send is your address. After that, dispatchers are equipped with already saved responses in order to get back to you as quick as possible. 

Taylor explained, "We need that address right up front because while that text message is starting we have help heading your way. Particularly in a police, ems, or fire incident."

The funding for these upgrades came at no cost to the participating counties. They were able to secure $5 million in grants. According to the PEMA website: Cambria, Centre, Jefferson, and Elk counties also have text 9-1-1.

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