CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — Saline and Union counties in southern Illinois have begun using upgraded 911 systems as part of a regional effort to improve emergency response.

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports that (http://bit.ly/1yiKRMo ) the two counties went live with their so-called next-generation 911 systems last week.

They join Jackson County, which went live with a new system in December. Other counties expected to follow soon include Johnson, Perry and Williamson.

The newspaper reports upgrading the systems has been an eight-year effort that involved securing public and private funding. Fifteen counties formed a nonprofit to facilitate the project.

The next-generation 911 systems can receive text messages, video and data-intensive files such as maps and floor plans. Communities throughout southern Illinois will be able to route calls to other centers, if needed.