9-1-1 Offers Texting Option If You Can't Talk

9-1-1 Offers Texting Option If You Can't Talk
Posted on 04/01/2016

By CHPD Chief Robby Russo

The Cottonwood Heights Police Department is dispatched out of Valley Emergency Communications Center (VECC).  This is where the non-emergency and 9-1-1 calls for service are routed. Text-to-911 service makes it possible for those in need of emergency assistance to send a text message to 9-1-1. This service will be especially helpful in cases when a caller cannot communicate verbally due to hearing or speech impairment, or in cases when a crime is in process, the caller is facing domestic abuse, the caller is injured and cannot speak, or in other scenarios where a voice call to 9-1-1 is not possible. 

How it Works: In the number field enter 911 and in the body of text, state the emergency and location before pressing send.  Texting is now ubiquitous and in the fabric of how we communicate.  We're not advocating text-to-911 as a replacement but in addition to calling 911. 

The technology will soon enable the caller to also send pictures directly to the 9-1-1 center.  Sprint currently supports MMS (multi-media) on their network, while AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are still attempting to bring that enhancement into their networks.

For some reason, if I call my kids they don’t answer but will respond immediately if I text.  My only concern with this program is younger callers might be inclined to text when they can call.   Text messages to 9-1-1 are treated like any other text message on the network, meaning delays are possible Calling 9-1-1 provides more thorough and efficient communication.

In real world dynamic situations, it’s important to communicate information as rapidly as possible without losing anything in translation. Therein is the risk with texting, especially when two-way communication can occur more efficiently in a voice call.  The dispatchers, once identifying the nature of the complaint have a series of protocol questions to push to the responding officers.

When texting, it’s important to not use acronyms and/or texting lingo so that the message is clearly understood.

In situations where a caller is in jeopardy, the text is very valuable, but should never be used as a shortcut. 

Contact 9-1-1 to:

•          Save a life

•          Stop a crime

•          Report a fire

Note: Prank texting carries that same consequences as prank calling 9-1-1.