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Plymouth — A group of western Wayne County communities Friday said their residents can now send text messages to request 911 emergency services.

The Conference of Western Wayne Communities announced the availability of the new technology during its regular meeting, held at the Plymouth Public Library.

“We’re very excited to announce this regional effort that’s been made possible by all of our public safety agencies,” said Westland Mayor Bill Wild, the organization’s chairman.

The technology is available in 18 communities as well as mobile phone users at Detroit Metro Airport in Romulus. Callers must have wireless service plans with one of the four major carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon.

Members of the Conference of Western Wayne Communities are the cities of Belleville, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Garden City, Inkster, Livonia, Northville, Plymouth, Romulus, Wayne and Westland as well as Canton, Huron, Northville, Plymouth, Redford, Sumpter and Van Buren townships. An estimated 700,000 people live in the 360-square-mile area.

Neighboring Oakland and Macomb counties have been using the technology for some time, he said. The group began working on implementing it after exchanging policy ideas with public safety officials in Oakland County, which launched its program last year, he added.

To use the service, users have to send a text message with their wireless phones to 911. The message will be routed to the nearest 911 dispatch center in the group’s member communities.

If users are in areas where text-to-911 service isn’t available, they’ll get a message informing them so.

Wild said the new technology will not cost communities any more to operate than the service they provide now.

Jordyn Sellek, the group’s executive director and 911 coordinator, said the system accepts only short message service texts, but in the future will be able to handle voice, text and video from any communications device.

Livonia Police Chief Curtis Caid said the technology is meant as a complement to, not a replacement for, calling 911. Calling is the most efficient way to contact public safety officials in emergencies, he said.

“It provides another avenue of contact to 911 services when calling is not an option,” he said. “It offers citizens who are deaf, hard of hearing or have other speech disabilities a new way to contact emergency services. Call if you can, text if you can’t.”

It’s estimated that more than 37 million people in the United States have a hearing disability.

Caid also said the technology can be useful in circumstances, such as domestic violence incidents or crimes that are in progress, when it’s not practical to make a phone call.

cramirez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2058

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