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Residents in nine counties now able to text 911

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OLATHE, Kan. -- Residents of nine counties surrounding Kansas City will be able to text 911 staring Friday.

The new text 911 feature officially goes online at 10 a.m., Friday, Feb. 19.

Dispatchers everywhere in the Kansas City area will then be able to receive texts in an emergency and send police, fire or paramedics.

The Mid America Regional Council (MARC) has spent the past few months working with cell phone carriers to make the service a reality.

The service will not cost users. Dispatchers already have the technology to communicate with the deaf community through a text-like system. But they still needed to train to prepare for the influx of texts they will soon receive.

According to MARC, more than 70-percent of all emergency calls come from cell phones so dispatchers expect many to utilize the text feature, but the motto is still call if you can, text if you can’t because dispatchers can get more information from you quicker through talking. Also they can better assess the situation based on what they are hearing in the background.

"On the calling versus texting, just the act of typing takes longer," MARC public safety director Keith Faddis said. "So that's one of the reasons we encourage calling even though we have pre-canned messages so those go real fast, you're still waiting for the texter to respond."

If you do text 911, don’t use abbreviations. It will also be important to give them your address right away so they can send someone right away. Also beware of autocorrect.

MARC admits it will be a challenge making sure dispatchers read texts correctly even if some words are misspelled.