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911 system upgrade one step closer to allowing text messages

DeKALB – DeKalb County is one step closer to residents having the capability to text 911 if they’re unable to call.

DeKalb Police Cmdr. Jason Leverton said during a Wednesday virtual DeKalb County E-911 Board meeting that the DeKalb Police Department 911 center, which services the city and Northern Illinois University, is set to receive its Next Generation 911, or NG911, system equipment and have it installed Tuesday.

“We look forward to making that transition next week, at long last,” Leverton said.

The update comes after county 911 officials started providing regular check-ins about the system implementation process in April 2018. Back then, those officials said DeKalb County would be part of the first of 11 northern Illinois counties to make the upgrade and now that total counties number is now down to nine, including Ogle, Winnebago, Boone, Stevenson, Jo Daviess, Bureau, Carroll and White counties.

Next Generation 911 systems use digital or internet-based technology to create a faster system that allows callers to communicate with voice calls or by sending photos, videos or text messages. But because most 911 systems were built using analog technology, making this changeover requires work and coordination, according to 911.gov.

DeKalb County 911 coordinator Glenna Johnson, who is set to retire this month, confirmed what Leverton said and, as of now, the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office 911 center, which services the rest of the county, also is set to receive their equipment and have it installed Wednesday. However, she said, the county still has a ways to go before county residents will actually be able to text 911 dispatchers.

“It’s going to take another six months” for wireless carriers to agree to support that service,” Johnson said.

Johnson had said that DeKalb County previously was set to be the first of the northern Illinois counties to have the 911 texting capability. However, she said, because of some setbacks along the way and the COVID-19 pandemic, she expects the county would be about the third in the state to get that ball rolling.

But with the new equipment coming in and the ability to accept texts to 911, the opportunity will be there whenever the 911 texting capability officially rolls out in the county, Johnson said. She said she is looking forward to providing more services to the public first responders serve.

“We’re very excited about the new equipment,” Johnson said. “Very excited.”

Johnson said 911 officials know this has been a long-awaited system upgrade for the county. Rest assured, she said, the county will be publicizing in a large fashion as soon as wireless carriers are officially on board.

“The message will be to call if you can, text if you can’t,” Johnson said. “Once we get to that point, that will be our message to the public.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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