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Wisconsin Police Dispatcher Uses New Text Message Service To Handle Emergency Hundreds Of Miles Away

Date: 2014-05-01
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The Middleton (WI) Police dispatch center (photo via Middleon PD)

In the early morning hours one day last weekend, Middleton (WI) Police Department dispatcher Sue Buechner received a text message from a teenager who was afraid that his mom was having a medical emergency.  This type of incident is fairly common to dispatchers, but something made this call remarkably unusual.  Upon exchanging several text messages to determine the location and get further details, Sue quickly discovered that the person who was texting for help and the patient were actually in Manchester, Tennessee, almost 700 miles away from Middleton.  While it is unknown why or how the teen found the number to reach police in Middleton; he said he had no minutes left on his phone and was only able to communicate using WiFi from a local restaurant to use a texting app.

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While Sue exchanged many text messages with the teen to determine the exact location and details about the condition of his mother, she contacted authorities in Tennessee.  Sue kept communicating with the teen until emergency responders arrived to help his mother, who was found to be unresponsive after taking medication and alcohol. 

Above Right: Middleton Police dispatcher Sue Buechner.  Photo courtesy WISC-TV

The Middleton Police Department text-enabled its non-emergency landline telephone number just over six months ago, thanks to a partnership with Zipwhip, the world’s first text carrier.  This service gives people in Middleton a new but familiar way to contact police for non-emergency services or to simply ask a question; call or text the department at the same number they’ve been using for years: 608-824-7300.   The text service provides another method to access non-emergency services using text messaging, which we recognize is a preferred means of communications for many, as well as provides access for citizens who are speech or hearing impaired.

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Since the text messaging system was launched in October, Middleton dispatchers have received and sent over 900 text messages, mostly involving such things as parking complaints, noise disturbances, animal complaints and various general questions. While voice communication is and always will be the preferred means of communication with the police, we also understand and appreciate technology, which in this case allowed a dispatcher to quietly handle a crisis hundreds of miles away.

- People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (via Middleton PD, 4/28/14)

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