Reality Check: Testing Mobile County's TEXT to 9-1-1 system


So far this year, just 18 people have used Mobile County's text to 9-1-1 system.

That's because most people don't even realize it's an option.

Mobile County Sheriff's deputies say a woman in Eight Mile texted her friend from the shower during a home invasion on St. Nicolas Drive Tuesday. That friend ended up calling 9-1-1 and two out of the three suspects were arrested.

But officials want everyone to know that there's another option.

You can text your emergency directly to 9-1-1.

The service has been around for two years but most people don't realize it exists.

"We would rather talk to them but texting is beneficial for the hearing impaired and for the person who is really in a dire situation, when they don't want a perpetrator or someone to know they're calling authorities," said 9-1-1 Director Charlie McNichol.

For our report, we decided to test the process Wednesday evening.

Two out of the four test trials went well. We stood inside the call center on Zeigler Blvd. and used phones with Verizon cell service. Two of our texts went through quickly and were received by the dispatchers sitting beside us.

But our other two trials didn't go as planned. Instead those texts were somehow received in Escambia County, Florida at their 9-1-1 center.

"I didn't know that was a problem. I've never had that happen. We've done many tests and they've always worked. So I'll be in touch with Verizon since that happened to be the provider we were using. However, if that happens, the caller can notify them (Escambia) that they're in Mobile and they'll transfer the call over and get them help just the same. But we don't want the delay, that's the concern," said McNichol.

We later tested the system from the Local 15 newsroom using phones with Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile cell service. All of those texts went to the correct location in Mobile.

We should note that anytime you text 9-1-1 you have to text operators your location. They won't receive location data like they do during a regular phone call.

Mobile County was the first county in the state to get the service.

Baldwin County does not yet have it.