Meceola Central Dispatch warns of apps claiming to contact 911

PARIS — These days there’s an app claiming to do just about anything and everything. However, when it comes to 911 apps for cellphones, it’s best to just steer clear.

New technological advancement seem to be popping up constantly, offering a simpler way to do something, but dialing 911 is the simplest and only way to get in touch with Meceola Central Dispatch in an emergency, Director Laurie Smalla said.

While many apps are on the market, either featuring 911 in the logo or title, or claiming to dial 911 in the event assistance is needed, Smalla said these apps are not linked to the dispatch center.

“People downloading these apps are thinking the apps will somehow contact 911 for them, but that is not how it works,” she said. “We won’t receive these messages. Frankly, it’s a waste of money and I would advise just staying away from them.”

Smalla said none of these apps are endorsed by 911 and are not linked to the service.

The description of some apps claims the program will send a message to a listed emergency contact if a feature is activated. However, Smalla does not know if these actually serve that purpose. What she does know is that her dispatchers will not be alerted of an emergency situation through an app.

“I would hate to think someone would download an app thinking it would actually go through to a 911 center and then be in a situation where they think help has been reached or activated and that isn’t true,” Smalla said.

Another way some people may attempt to reach 911 is by texting, but Meceola Central Dispatch is not able to receive text messages – at least not yet.

“The entire 911 system will need to be upgraded in the near future because the original phone equipment is so outdated,” Small said. “One day we will have the capability to receive texts and possibly videos.”

Some states already have the ability to receive text messages, along with a few counties in Michigan that have recently updated their equipment and systems and are currently testing it out.

While texting 911 would be useful in situations where there is not enough cellphone service to place a call or an incident where the caller is unable to speak, such as a domestic violence situation, in most cases, Smalla hopes people will still call dispatch when possible.

“Any place that does have texting capabilities still prefers the call because there’s so many questions and we’re better able to pick up on details, things like background noises, through a phone call,” Smalla said.

Although apps for sending information to Meceola Central Dispatch do not work and individuals cannot text the center, there is a way for residents to have information from central dispatch, emergency services and law enforcement sent to their phones.

Nixle is a notification system available in both Mecosta and Osceola counties, which sends out alerts about weather, road closures, missing people and other tidbits of news as information becomes available.

“It’s a service we have that’s very useful in communicating with residents about potentially dangerous happenings they should be aware of,” Smalla said. “There are different levels to it and you can opt out of certain messages if you’d like.”

Residents can sign up for Nixle by vising or by texting their zip code to 888777 to receive mobile alerts from that area.