On the Beat in Bluffton

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Texting 911 for help now an option

Adam McCartney, 911 director for Wells County, announced Wednesday the ability to send text messages to 911.

For more information, pick up Wednesday's News-Banner. More information is also available here.

According to a release issued by McCartney, Verizon Wireless and its technology partner TeleCommunication Systems are the first carrier to provide service. Three other carriers – T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T – have also voluntarily committed that they will provide service.

The release says Verizon customers in Indiana should keep the following in mind if they send a text to 911:

• Customers should use the texting option only when calling 911 is not an option.
• Using a phone to call 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency. It may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a text to 911 situation because of the time involved: someone must enter the text, the message must go over the network and the 911 telecommunicator must read the text and then text back.
• Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since the Indiana communications centers will receive only an approximate location of the cell phone, and will not be able to speak with the person sending the text. Text abbreviations or slang should never be used so that the intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible.
• Customers must be in range of cell towers in the area. If customers are outside or near the edge of a county, the message may not reach the Emergency Communications Center.
• Texts sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.
• Verizon Wireless customers who use Usage Controls should remove this feature to ensure full text to 911 capability.
• Verizon Wireless customers must have mobile phones that are capable of sending text messages.
• The solution is available for customers who use the SMS provided by Verizon Wireless. It is not available for third-party text messaging applications that can be downloaded to the phone or for applications that do not use SMS technology.
• The texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire or emergency medical services. Non-emergency issues should still be communicated to the local municipalities’ communications centers through their non-emergency lines.
• SMS911 should only be to communicate between emergency help and the texter with no pictures, video, other attachments or other recipients appended to the message.

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