GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s like texting anyone else, but help is on the other end of the line. 

“You simply open up your text message application, whichever one you prefer, and you type 911 into the to field just like you would dial and then type your message,” Kent County Sheriff Office Communications Center Assistant Manager Jennifer Robinson said.

“We prefer that you include your location first,” she said.

Since the launch on Dec. 20 Kent County dispatchers have received on average six texts a day and rising. 

“We’ve really seen kind of the standard texts from people who aren’t able to make phone calls to us as well as we’ve started seeing some alarms via text message instead of a phone call, which has been beneficial as well,” Robinson said.

Police say the service can be especially helpful for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, or for those who are afraid to call.

Both Grand Rapids police and Kent County deputies have received and responded to credible texts in the weeks since the launch. 

“There was a circumstance where a 5-year-old child was observing his parents arguing and he was using a text service to get a hold of us so could render some assistance there,” Grand Rapids Police Department Cpt. Terry Dixon said. 

It also worked for a 49 year-old woman in Lowell Township who texted 911 on Christmas morning. 

“She had alleged that she was assaulted and (was) also threatened that if she called and talked to anyone that she could be harmed,” Kent County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Eric Brunner said. “So she was able to remove herself to a bedroom and was able to interact with our dispatch staff who stayed in continual contact via text message until our deputies were able to arrive at the house. She let them in and they were able to help resolve the situation.”

Police say they still want you to call first if you can.

“We get the most accurate and the best information when we are talking to you on the phone because it’s live, real-time information and our staff can hear what’s going on in the background,” Brunner said. 

They do expect texts to 911 to increase. 

“We do, overtime,” Dixon said. “We believe that it will. Right now it’s in its infancy and it’s getting off to a slower start, but once it gets rolling we have no doubt that it will also serve its purpose. It’s serving its purpose now.” 

Non-English speaking individuals are also encouraged to use the text service if needed, as 911 to text can translate English into about 130 languages.