Lehigh Valley

Allentown unveils new 911 texting technology

Allentown unveils new 911 texting technology

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Allentown is putting emergency services at your fingertips, literally.

City officials announced Thursday a new way for people inside city limits to reach the 911 center via text messages. All you have to do is text a message to 911.

On the receiving end, the dispatcher will see the message on his or her computer and text you back.

"We are the first city in Pennsylvania. We're the fourth 911 agency in the commonwealth to go live with this system," said Michael Hilbert, superintendent of communications at the Allentown 911 center.

So far, Verizon wireless customers will be the only ones able to access the system, but city officials said they expect the service will be made available on T-Mobile within four weeks. Sprint and AT&T are still in works.

Emergency responders said the new system will be a major help for the speech and hearing impaired and in situations where making a phone call isn't an option.

"Whether it's a medical condition and they can't make a phone call or such as a home invasion robbery or a hostage type situation where they can't make the noise of making a voice phone call, this gives them the opportunity to communicate that emergency," said Asst. Chief Keith Morris, Allentown Police Dept.

The new service is only available in Allentown. Any texts to 911 outside city limits will not be recognized.

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