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9-1-1 upgrades move Gallatin Co. toward texting feature

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BOZEMAN, Mont. - Tuesday morning, Gallatin County commissioners approved more than $1 million in upgrades for its 9-1-1 center. Kerry O'Connell, the 9-1-1 Center director, said the goal is to make it easier to contact 9-1-1.

Recent upgrades include more than $281,000 to replace the county's 9-1-1 phone system. Another $1.5 million was approved as part of a city-county agreement to upgrade radio systems. Both will be equipped to work with a text to 9-1-1 feature.

Right now, if you are having an emergency the only way to get a hold of a dispatcher is to call. The improvements will eventually allow people to send text messages.

"There are some benefits. If you're some place where you feel threatened and you don't feel that you can speak, we definitely want to get that feature on the horizon for people to have that option (to text)," O'Connell said.

O'Connell says Gallatin County is playing catch up. The texting feature is already available in Deer Lodge, Missoula and Ravalli County.

There are drawbacks. O'Connell says pinpointing a location isn't always precise on cell phones.

The feature is not expected to roll out for at least another year. She says the next step after texts is integrating photos and videos.

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