By David Madden

PISCATAWAY, NJ (CBS) — Officials in New Jersey have unveiled a new statewide system for people to text 9-1-1 when a regular call is not an option.

Each of New Jersey’s 21 counties now has a central dispatch to handle 9-1-1 texts. Several communities, including Camden County, have offered the texting option for months now.

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Officials say texting will help those with speech or hearing difficulties. And there are times when texting might be the only real option available.

“There are situations where an individual simply cannot speak, either because he or she is too ill or because they’re in a situation where it would not be safe to speak,” Attorney General Christopher Porrino told KYW Newsradio.

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Still, a voice call is preferred in the event of an emergency.

“A phone call will allow the dispatcher to assess what’s going on in the background, will be able to hear the level of distress in the caller’s voice and can answer follow up questions if there are any,” Porrino said.

If you use the text option, keep the messages short and to the point, and don’t attach video or photos. That’ll slow things up.

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Four of the nation’s largest cellular phone companies provided the software. Rutgers University and the State Police helped train dispatchers in the new system, and are actually providing the service in four counties in the northern part of the state.