OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahomans, particularly in rural areas, need to adjust to a new change when it comes to contacting law enforcement in emergency situations.
For nearly 30 years, *55 has been the number to call to reach Oklahoma Highway Patrol, particularly on highways and in rural areas.
Now, that number is going away and they simply ask you call 911.
Officials say *55 has been around for almost 30 years now and it’s been a great asset.
For years, the quick dial on the keypad served as the emergency number to call Oklahoma Highway Patrol, particularly in rural areas.
“99% of them do not have big municipalities out and about so people have learned in some areas to just call the Highway Patrol,” said Trooper Eric Foster, with OHP.
Initially, *55 debuted as cell phones became more popular.
But Foster says it’s time to move forward from this outdated technology.
The big problem in 2021 is many people are using GPS to get around and don’t know the streets well enough.
“They get in a bad crash, they can’t tell us where they’re at,” Foster said. “It would find which tower you were bouncing off of cellular-wise, and it would route you to the nearest troop headquarters. Sometimes those weren’t accurate.”
Foster says the change to just calling 911 will help them find you faster and despite some public concern, lines will not be tied up.
As *55 goes away, OHP is becoming a secondary public safety access point.
“With this system, you’re likely to see less hold times or wait times in an emergency situation, especially in a massive critical situation, things like a tornado,” said Foster.
Though some may not feel as comfortable calling 911, they say you shouldn’t hesitate.
“Really, the message is, if you think it’s an emergency, call 911, that’s ok,” Foster said. “Don’t judge – is this an emergency or not? Go ahead and call that number and then we can figure that out.”
Troopers say even if it’s for something like getting help changing a tire in on a busy interstate, don’t hesitate to call 911 to reach them because that can be a very dangerous situation.