The Wayne County 911 Center is accepting text-to-911 service, which allows AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon customers to send texts with up to 140 characters to 911 in an emergency.
“This new service will allow our community to contact emergency responders via text messaging during situations when it may not be possible or safe to place a voice call,” said Jon Verkey, chairman of public safety. “I am proud of our public safety team and our ability to offer this vital service.”
Text to 911 should be used in an emergency situation when placing a voice call is not possible. For instance, if the caller is deaf or hard-of-hearing, speech impaired, or when speaking out loud would put the caller in danger.
“This new ability for our hearing and speech impaired, our vulnerable populations, those who have limited English proficiency, and our domestic violence victims is a welcome relief,” Sheriff Barry Virts said.
The 911 Center asks texters to use the following guidelines: don’t text and drive, send the location and type of emergency in the first text message, text in simple words, send a short message without abbreviations or slang, and be prepared to answer questions and the dispatcher’s instructions.
It is a crime to text or call 911 with a false report. Prank texters can be located.
“This was an important project for us,” said George Bastedo, director of disaster preparedness. “Many other counties in New York state had already implemented text-to-911. We are thankful that we were able to utilize grant funding so that we could offer a stable, reliable and integrated text-to-911 solution.”
A text or data plan is required to place a 911 text. Messages to 911 may take longer to receive, may get out of order or may not be received at all. Texters should attempt a voice call if they do not receive a text response, even if they can’t speak. Dispatchers may be able to send help if they can obtain a valid address. Photos and videos cannot be sent to 911, and texts can’t include more than one person. Voice calls are the best and fastest way to contact 911.
“Dispatchers are making a difference and saving lives every day,” said Greg DeWolf, 911 operations manager. “Now, they can have a way to help and serve more of our community, and at times when it is too dangerous for callers to speak on the phone.”
To text 911, enter 911 in the “to” or “recipient” field. The first text should be short, include the location of the emergency, and ask for police, fire or ambulance. Push the send button. If silence is important, make sure phones are on vibrate so that the return text sound and other phone alerts are not heard.
“I urge the community to use the text-to-911 service only when a voice call is not possible,” DeWolf said. “Voice is faster, more accurate and more reliable than a text conversation. If text is the only safe method to contact an emergency dispatcher, then please do not hesitate. Our team is ready.”
Text-to-911 service is not available everywhere in New York state and the U.S.