Summit County 911 call center can now receive emergency text messages | SummitDaily.com

Summit County 911 call center can now receive emergency text messages

The Summit County 911 Center launched text-to-911 capabilities on Sept. 4, enabling members of the pubic to report emergencies and communicate with 911 dispatchers via text from mobile devices.

"Text to 911 is a great tool to have in our public safety toolbox," County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said in a written statement. "For situations in which it's not possible or safe to call 911, this service could be a life saver."

Text to 911 is a valuable alternative to voice calls for those with speech or hearing impairments, in areas where voice connectivity is unavailable and in dangerous situations where making a phone call could jeopardize the caller's safety.

To use the new service, just open the texting application on a mobile device, enter "911" in the "To" field, type a message describing the emergency and send. A 911 dispatcher will receive the message at his or her console and respond via text. The dispatcher and the reporting party will be able to text back and forth to assess the situation and deploy the appropriate emergency personnel and resources.

If a disruption in internet service causes the text-to-911 system to be unavailable, a sender will receive an automated text notification that his or her message cannot be delivered. Emergency communications systems cannot yet receive photos or videos via text, but the call center will implement those functionalities as they become available.

The 911 center recommends that people use text-to-911 service only when it's not possible or safe to make a phone call. Dispatchers automatically receive a caller's location information from a phone call, but not from a text.

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"The rule of thumb is, 'Call if you can. Text if you must,'" said Summit County 911 Center director Jerry Del Valle. "If a phone call is possible, it helps us get more information about your location, and it allows the dispatcher to gather information from you more quickly. But if you're in a circumstance where it's impossible to make a phone call, or it would put you in danger, use text to 911."

Emergency communications technology at the Summit County 911 Center will continue to be enhanced and upgraded over the course of the next several years, improving the speed and effectiveness with which it answers 911 calls and activates the appropriate public safety resources. The forthcoming upgrades will also improve dispatchers' ability to facilitate communication among responders during major incidents. Recent and future technological improvements at the 911 Center are funded through the Safety First Fund, approved by Summit County voters in November 2014.