WEST OLIVE, Mich. (WOOD) — If you’re in Ottawa County, you can now text 911 if you’re in trouble.

The text-to-911 service went live Friday morning.

“Call if you can, text if you can’t,” said Tim Smith, the executive director of the Ottawa County Central Dispatch Authority.

Dispatchers say the fastest way for them to send help is to speak to someone over the phone, but they also realize that’s not always an option.

“We need to get as much information as we can. Where are you? What’s your emergency? We also provide pre-arrival medical instruction. If you can talk, that’s the easiest way to get that information. If you can’t, we will do it through text messenger, but it is going to be a little bit slower,” Smith said.

The main target group for the service is people who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired.

“However, there are also situations where somebody may be breaking into your house, you may be hiding, in imminent danger where you can’t talk on the phone. The Orlando nightclub and other areas come to mind. We owe it to our people to open it up and allow the inbound texting,” Smith said.

If you are in a situation where you need to text 911, your message will pop up for a dispatcher and they will start responding to your text. Dispatchers have some pre-typed out questions to try and make the process faster, but rest assured you are communicating with a real person, not an automated system.

People using the text-to-911 service are asked not to send pictures or videos and not to use abbreviations or acronyms. Also, try to start with some information for the dispatchers instead of just typing “help.”

“We want to know, No. 1, your location; No. 2, what’s going on. If we get that information, we can start sending people that direction. Whether it’s fire department, law enforcement or medical, we can get them heading that way. Now we’re going to continue that text conversation with you,” Smith said.

Ottawa County joins Ionia, Barry, Calhoun, St Joseph and Berrien counties in offering text-to-911. Currently, Kent and Kalamazoo counties don’t offer the service.