LIVINGSTON COUNTY – Livingston County Sheriff Thomas Dougherty announced on Monday that the 911 center has expanded its capabilities to accept emergency reports via text message.
According to a press release from Dougherty, texting offers a way to contact the Sheriff’s 911 center in a situation where using one’s voice is not possible or safe.
“Calling 911 is the preferred method of contact,” said William Mann, Emergency Communications Director for the Sheriff’s Office, “but making texting to 911 available is important for situations when calling is not a viable or safe option.”
Dougherty said that texting gives 911 access to callers who are hearing or speech impaired, callers who are facing a threatening situation where a voice call could increase that threat, callers who are injured or suffered a medical condition, like a stroke, and cannot speak, and callers who are in a remote location and can only send text messages.
Currently, the four major carriers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless and their affiliated providers offer the ability to text 911. However, this does not mean that the service is available in all areas. When out of the area of your carrier, the text service will not be available and you will have to call 911 instead.
Dougherty said that the first text message that you send to 911 should always include clear and exact location information and the nature of the emergency. Like cell phone voice calls to 911, dispatchers will not know your exact location. The location services for texting are even broader than with cell phones, which make pinpointing your location more difficult.
When texting, citizens are asked to avoid slang and abbreviations for the sake of clarity.
Photos and videos cannot be sent to 911 at this time. Also, texts are limited by SMS (Short Messaging System) restrictions to 160 characters. These limitations may change in the future.
To text 911 in an emergency: Enter the numbers 911 in the “To” field; the first text message to 911 should be brief and contain the location of the emergency and type of help needed; push the “Send” button; be prepared to answer questions and follow the instructions of the 911 dispatcher; keep text messages brief and concise.
As with all text messages, text messages to 911 can take longer to receive and process. Texting to 911 is not available in all areas. A text or data plan is required to place a text to 911. Text to 911 cannot include more than one person. This is known as group texting. Do not send your emergency text to anyone other than 911.
Dougherty reminds all citizens to “Help save lives, don’t text and drive!”
“In Public Safety, it’s important that we stay in stride with technological advancements,” said Undersheriff Matthew Bean. “Giving our residents, and visitors, another avenue to reach us when there is an emergency is a great step towards providing them the emergency services they need.”