By Brad Segall

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — Residents in four suburban Philadelphia counties will soon be able to reach 911 dispatchers without picking up the phone and calling.

As the technology continues to advance, so too are Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, and Berks counties.  They have agreed to implement 911 texting for residents who need to reach emergency dispatchers.

That requires new equipment and some additional training, but officials hope to have the system up and running by early next year.

Montgomery County commissioner Josh Shapiro says ease of access is critical.

“We want to make sure people access 911 when they need it,” he said today.  “More and more people are becoming more comfortable with texting than calling, and so we want to make sure that’s an option available to them.”

He says there are also situations where a person needs to reach 911 but doesn’t want to be overheard — when calling is not a good idea.

Dispatchers will be able to respond, ask questions, and have a conversation through the texts.

A grant from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency will get the system up and running.

Texting to 911 dispatchers is not yet available in the City of Philadelphia.