County adds ‘Text-to-911’ service


November 2, 2017 - 12:00 AM

A new service launched today allows residents to send texts to the Allen County 911 Communications Center.
The Text-to-911 program is especially beneficial for the deaf or hard of hearing, 911 director Angie Murphy explained in an email.
It also can be used for individuals who cannot safely make a voice call to 911 in an emergency.
Texting 911 can be done simply by typing “911” in the field for a phone number, Murphy said.
Those who do text should be able to provide their exact address or location, explain the type of emergency, use plain language and avoid abbreviations, symbols, emoticons or photos.
The messages should be brief and concise. Texters also should be prepared to answer follow-up questions from 911 dispatchers.
MURPHY rattled off a list of hypothetical situations where Text-to-911 could be appropriate, not counting for instances when the caller is hearing impaired. Examples are if a person would be put in danger by making a call, such as in an abduction, domestic violence or active shooter situations.
Texting should be done through a wireless phone’s text messaging service and not from a third-party texting application, Murphy said.
Text-to-911 requires an active telephone service plan with data or it will not work.
The system was developed in conjunction with the Kansas 911 Coordinating Council, as well as with cellular phone carriers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless.
Such services are available in other communities in Kansas, but are not statewide, Murphy said. 
If a text is made to 911 where that service is not available, a message will be sent back to the phone advising the customer to make a voice call.
“Remember, the best way to contact 911 is by making a voice call,” Murphy said. “Please only utilize this service in emergency circumstances where a voice call is not possible or safe.”