Friday, July 8, 2016

Texting to 9-1-1 and What You Need to Know

When some people hear about texting to 9-1-1, they think, now why would you text to 9-1-1 instead of calling if you need help in an emergency? That is a great question and one we will explain to you along with everything else that texting to 9-1-1 entails. When you are done with this blog, you should have a better understanding of who texting is best suited for and how it is useful to some in emergencies, when you need it the most.

In May 2014, the four largest wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile) made text to 9-1-1 available at the request of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs, otherwise known as 9-1-1 centers). Since then, in Texas, the Commission on State Emergency Communications (CSEC) has adopted policies in an effort to implement text to 9-1-1 to all 22 Council of Governments (COGs) by the end of 2018.

Texting to 9-1-1 was first introduced to assist the deaf and hard of hearing community as a way of getting help in an emergency. It was also recognized that texting to 9-1-1 would greatly benefit anyone in a situation where they could not speak or call for help, like a home burglary, abduction or having something caught in your throat making it difficult for you to speak.

While texting to 9-1-1 could be helpful in these situations, in most emergencies it is not. We want to encourage citizens to call 9-1-1 first because texting can potentially delay help from getting to those in need quickly. Texting should never be the first option for contacting 9-1-1, especially since it is currently only available in certain areas. It is important that the community remember to first call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

In Texas, there are some areas that you can text to 9-1-1. For those areas that you cannot, if you were to attempt to text 9-1-1, you would receive a bounce-back message requesting that you please call 9-1-1 for help. This is because whatever area you might be texting from might not currently have the capability to receive text messages. The FCC is updating information on their website regularly as counties and PSAPs add text to 9-1-1 services throughout the country. You can find more information by clicking here.

Remember, call if you can, text if you can’t. For more information on what CSEC is doing to help provide text to 9-1-1 services please click here:
Below is a great video from the Sarasota Sheriff's Office on Texting to 9-1-1. Check it out!