People in South Dakota soon can text or call for help with new 911

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The state panel that oversees South Dakota’s 911 system is getting ready to roll out a new service.

Come early 2020, people can text for emergency help, just as they currently can call.

The South Dakota 911 Coordination Board is converting to an enhanced system that can accept text messages as well as phone calls.

The board met by teleconference Wednesday and agreed Maria King could use part of a recent federal grant to pay $607,466.02 to contractor CenturyLink.

King is the interim 911 services coordinator in the state Department of Public Safety.

The money will go for further cabling, electrical and technology upgrades at most of the 28 public-safety answering points that counties, cities and tribes run throughout South Dakota.

Texting will be a significant addition, because people can use it when they don’t have cell service, or aren’t able to speak because of a disability, or are in a dangerous situation where they don’t want someone else to hear it.

Bell told council members she spoke with federal and industry officials Tuesday about using grant money for the upgrades. She said it was good news that the work would qualify.

“It is,” replied Rachel Kippley, a Brown County Commission member who is on the council.

King answered some KELOLAND questions after the meeting. She said a CenturyLink contractor would start the work as soon as the amendment is signed. The council chose CenturyLink in June.

The finished project will roll out in the first quarter of 2020.

“It’s going to be a seamless transition for the general public,” King said.

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