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Phone companies offering 911 text service

PHOENIX — Four national cellphone companies are offering a new way to report an emergency to police.

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint are offering a service that allows customers to text 911. Doing so will route the emergency message directly to local police. The agency then gets your text along with information about your location.

The catch is that many police agencies, including those in Arizona, aren’t using the system yet. One of those that has yet to adopt is the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

“It is in the works, but it’s something that’s going to take a long time,” said Carrick Cook, public information officer for DPS.

He said that even when the system gets set up, DPS would rather have you call 911 instead of texting.

“We need to talk to people, and have them explain to us where it is,” Cook said. “We may have questions for people. That’s where 911 texts would not be appropriate.”

Cook said it takes longer to text than to talk. He said it will likely take police longer to respond to a problem when someone texts instead of calls.

And there are also dangers with texting while driving.

“Texting is a distraction. Manipulating your phone is a distraction,” said Cook. “We encourage 911 calls.”