GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Greenville County is setting up a new system that will allow people to contact 911 by sending a text message.

Sheriff Steve Loftis says his agency has become the first in the state to use such a system.

People with Verizon Wireless cellphones and service can now contact 911 via text message in Greenville County. Loftis says that other providers including AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have agreed to have such a system in place by May.

Loftis says it’s still best to call 911 in an emergency. But he says using the text system makes it easier for people with speech or hearing problems, or anyone who might need to contact 911 but might be endangering themselves by making a phone call.