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Hardin Police Department launches text-to-911 service for citizens

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Posted at 5:49 PM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 19:49:39-04

HARDIN — If you live in Hardin, there’s now a much easier way to contact 911 without having to actually call. The service is already available in Billings although you might not have realized it.

Whether it’s a domestic violence situation or a mass shooting, sometimes victims don’t have the ability to make a phone call to 911.

“Through recent incidents around the country, texting might be a better way to contact assistance for help,” said Hardin Police Chief Donald Babbin on Thursday.

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The Hardin Police Department has joined a growing list of Montana law enforcement agencies implementing a new program where residents can text 911 instead of calling.

“You just text your emergency and if you can, give your location. We’ll receive the message and a police officer will be dispatched to that emergency,” Babbin said.

The service doesn’t replace calling 911 but gives citizens another option to get a hold of emergency services.

The Hardin Police Department uses public safety communications center, 911 iNET, to receive texts.

“They receive the text, they notify the officer, and during the day from eight to five, Monday through Friday, we also monitor it,” said Babbin.

The department also created a new position for monitoring texts called a terminal agency coordinator.

“With the new position that we just hired, TAC administrative, admin assistant, so he monitors it during the day,” Babbin said.

The idea isn’t new. The city of Billings has been using the text-to-911 service for five years now, although many residents still don’t know it exists.

“I thought it would take off a lot more than it did, a little bit more than it used to, but not nearly as much as I thought it would,” said Jeff Love, supervisor of the Billings 911 Center.

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While Love believes many still don’t know they can text 911, he said the service works especially well in domestic violence situations where victims don’t want to be heard by their assailant.

“There is some delay with the text to come through and for it to go back so if you do text us, it’s not like we’re ignoring you. There’s just a delay in the network,” Love said.

Either way, when you contact 911, make sure to provide your location so officers know where to find you.

“When silence is a must, this will work out well,” said Babbin.