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Ohioans in danger may soon be able to text 911

Texting 911
Posted at 6:59 PM, Feb 15, 2023

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohioans all over the state would be able to text 911 in an emergency under a bipartisan bill proposed in the Senate.

Senate Bill 50 would fund and construct a statewide Next Generation 911 system (NG911) and requires all counties to upgrade their 911 system. NG911 would include stronger tracking abilities and the ability to text in case of an emergency. State Sens. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Steve Wilson (R-Maineville) introduced the legislation together.

"You're able to tell the police where you're at, what's going on — when you're on the phone, that puts you and the people that you're around at risk for being caught by the shooter... [it] announces your location," safety advocate Erick Bellomy said.

The mass shooting at Michigan State University has reignited conversations about safety dispatch in Ohio, but Bellomy is feeling optimistic with S.B. 50 introduced.

"It enhances your ability to live and then also be found and saved," he added.

Being able to text 911 is a perk to just some counties, like Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton, but Smith said that may change soon.

"The technology we're using in 80% of the state of Ohio is based on 1968 technology, where we all had landlines," said Smith. "Next Generation 911 has the ability to use routing location technology so we can actually find where the call is coming from."

Akron is one of the biggest cities in the state, but Summit County residents aren’t able to text 911. Mayor Dan Horrigan said this could help save lives.

"I think technological upgrades to make calls easier, have them switch easier and they don't get dropped — that's going to protect citizens," said Horrigan. "And to me, that's an improvement on public safety."

The problem comes in when the money gets counted. Horrigan has been trying to get more funding, but changing an entire system could be "really expensive," he said.

The bill would provide dollars for these upgrades, Smith added. DeWine is also proposing to put millions toward it as well.

"You might be surprised to learn that under most current 911 systems, when you call on your cell phone, it doesn’t necessarily go directly to your local dispatch center," DeWine said during his State of the State address in January. "However, the Next Generation 911 System routes calls directly to local dispatchers and uses your cell phone’s GPS to more quickly get first responders to your exact location. Our budget will fully fund this system in every Ohio community."

Being able to text isn't just good for mass shootings, but also for domestic violence cases, kidnappings and car accidents, Bellomy said. It could also help people who have disabilities, he added, which was a goal of Smith's.

"For more than 50 million Americans with speech or language disabilities or anxiety disorders, text and data to 911 can mean the difference between life and death; or the difference between rescue and tragedy," Smith told News 5, reading from his previous testimony given the General Assembly prior.

Bellomy warned that yes, this is a great bill, but more needs to be done to prevent incidents where texting emergency services are needed.

"We need the governor to address gun violence in a legislative way," he said.

The bill will most likely be heard in the upcoming weeks.

Counties that can text
Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lorain, Erie, Huron, Ashland, Richland, Sandusky, Ottawa, Lucas, Wood, Hancock, Williams, Defiance, Paulding, Van Wert, Allen, Mercer, Marion, Carroll, Columbiana, Jefferson, Union, Delaware, Champaign, Miami, Madison, Franklin, Licking, Muskingum, Guernsey, Monroe, Pickaway, Greene, Montgomery, Butler, Hamilton, Warren, Brown, Pike and Athens have the ability to text.

Medina, Trumbull, Stark, Fulton, Coshocton, Noble and Ross are currently in development.

Text-To-911 in Ohio
Text-To-911 in Ohio

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