Integrated text-to-911 service has proven to be beneficial to citizen in Collier County, Fla., and has not been a burden to telecommunicators in the local public-safety answering point (PSAP), according to a key county official.

Collier County—a large geographic jurisdiction that includes a lot of everglades, as well as the city of Everglades—was the first county in the state to provide text-to-911 service in 2013, according to Bob Finney, technical manager for communications division of the Collier County sheriff’s office. Last August, the county migrated from a web-based text-to-911 solution to be a beta site for the IP-based VESTA SMS text-to-911 solution from Airbus DS Communications, he said.

“It uses IP connectivity direct from the text control center, and [the text message] goes directly into our Airbus VESTA equipment,” Finney said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “It’s fully integrated, so the call-taker no longer has another screen that they need—it’s right there in front of them.”

This ease of use was cited by a call-taker when responding to an emergency text from a 61-year-old man who had fallen 15 feet, according to Finney.

“He was working in a tree, fell off of the ladder and broke his back,” Finney said. “For some reason, he couldn’t make a voice call from his phone, but the texting worked. So, he just randomly sent a text to 911, hoping someone would answer. Sure enough, we did, and he was subsequently airlifted to a hospital. He’s doing all right now.”

Finney said the call is emblematic of the roughly 15 emergency texts per months that the Collier County PSAP has received since it began providing text-to-911 service. Officials expected the text-to-911 capability primarily would generate calls from domestic-violence victims needing to remain silent or from people lost in the everglades who had such poor cellular reception that they could not make a 911 voice call, but most emergency text have been to report medical conditions, he said.

County officials were concerned that the text-to-911 service would result in a number of texts from people wanting to test the system or sending prank texts, but “we haven’t had a lot of those,” Finney said.

From an operational standpoint, having an integrated 911 solution has made the introduction of text-to-911 service much more palatable for veteran call-takers in the PSAP, Finney said.

“When they realize that it is something that’s straightforward and part of the call flow, it tends to calm them,” he said. “Because nobody likes change, especially when you’ve been doing it for so long and—all of a sudden—it’s different.

“For the newer generation, there are different issues. They’re used to the technology, so it needs to be intuitive for them, because they’re used to consumer electronics. It’s very important to the managers and directors to have that ease of use.”