New Clark County 911 system soon will allow emergency texts

A new $300,000 911 system in Clark County means residents will soon be able to text 911 in case of an emergency.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office launched its next generation 911 system on Tuesday morning, Sheriff Gene Kelly said, but the texting capability will take about 3 to 6 months to go live.

Once residents are able to text 911, he said, it will be especially helpful for deaf members of the community.

“This is being done in their best interest to make sure our community is safe and that we are leaders in technology,” Kelly said.

The new system has a much larger capacity than the old one, he said, so it could handle multiple other jurisdictions in the future.

“It’s large enough to take on Champaign County or another jurisdiction if we wanted to contract and dispatch for that area as well,” he said.

The Clark County dispatch center will double its stations immediately, he said, from four to eight. Dispatchers will now have touch-screen computers at each station, he said, to make transferring calls to other departments as easy as pressing a button.

“Currently we’ve actually had to make the 7-digit phone call to these other jurisdictions,” he said. “It’s going to make it faster, the technology has changed so much.”

The county was mandated to update its system by the state by 2018, Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said. It chose to update it now because they county had the money, he said, plus the technology will be useful far in the future.

“There was no reason to wait,” Lohnes said. “We’re spending money early and getting ahead.”

It’s taken the commissioners and sheriff’s office about two years to get the system up and running, Kelly said, and shows a commitment to the latest technology.