Two-way text-messaging functionality from Rave Mobile Safety’s Smart911 platform is helping public-safety answering points (PSAPs) address the growing issue of abandoned emergency calls with greater efficiency and effectiveness, according to a Michigan dispatcher.

Ryan Culver, dispatcher for the Ottawa County Central Dispatch Authority in Ottawa County, Mich., said he uses Rave Mobile Safety’s Smart911Chat to connect with any mobile-phone users who have abandoned their emergency call—something that can happen with an accidental misdial or a pocket dial (known by many as a “butt dial”).

“I probably use the Smart911 text feature as much as 15 times per day, with all of those abandoned calls,” Culver said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “It’s in our policy now that we send a text message back, if they do not answer a phone call.

“To be honest, the majority of the replies I get back are, ‘This was an accidental dial. Thank you for responding back. Have a good day.’”

But about 3% of the time, the follow-up text communications have resulted in responses during situations in which the emergency caller was unable to speak—a situation that is common during domestic-violence incidents, Culver said. In one case, Culver received a 911 call from a woman, but a male suspect took the device from her and threw it in the toilet.

“Unfortunately, I had nothing on that phone number, so I could not get a Phase II [caller location] on it,” Culver said. “I tried calling it back, but due to the water damage, the phone was not working properly. I ended up sending a text message. Thankfully, she pulled the phone out [of the toilet] in time, so that texting feature on her phone was still able to work. So, I was not able to communicate with her over the phone orally, but I was able to get the address, situation, names, weapons—everything—through the texting feature.

“It did wonders. We were able to get someone over there in time, and it had a positive result. We’ve had many incidents like that.”

Culver cited another incident in which an emergency caller had a diabetic reaction and was unable to speak. However, by utilizing the text-message capability, the emergency caller was able to communicate and provide the information necessary for Culver to dispatch help.

In another case, the Smart911Chat two-way text solution was used to peacefully resolve a situation in which a man armed with a gun was believed to be considering suicide, according to his wife who had fled the area, Culver said.

“We called him multiple times, and he did not answer,” Culver said. “But he felt he was able to communicate through text message, and he did. Eventually, we were able to get on the phone with him. But, if it wasn’t for that text-messaging feature, we never would have never initiated a conversation; we never would have been able to build a rapport.

“Fortunately, that situation ended positively. We were able to get him to drop his weapon, and everything ended peacefully. But if it wasn’t for that Smart911 feature, we never would have been able to build up that rapport or even initiate a conversation with him.”