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Americans in Iowa can now summon the emergency services by text message, as long as they're with T-Mobile, happen to be within Black Hawk County and have time to respond to a message or two.

The service isn't perfect just yet - tracking location from a text is tricky - so anyone using the 911-text service will receive a message asking them for their current ZIP code. If it's outside Black Hawk then they'll just have to call 911 the usual way.

According to the Associated Press "The call center's operators are able to text back from their computers to conduct a conversation with the texter" which does make one wonder what kind of emergency can cope with the inevitable delays of a caller grappling with the intricacies of T9.

But according to Black Hawk County police chief Thomas Jennings, the service will be of real value to the hard of hearing, and for kidnap victims who have until now, and apparently in "several cases", been reduced to texting friends or relatives and getting them to call 911. We have to assume that Black Hawk County kidnappers aren't terribly bright, and that those kidnapped keep track of their ZIP codes while being snatched.

Anyone not using i wireless, the local carrier for T-Mobile, will receive a text message suggesting they call 911, at least until the service can be rolled out more comprehensively. ®

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