Sometimes a voice call to 911 just doesn’t work, especially for deaf or domestic violence victims in need of help. In some areas of the United States it is now possible to use certain wireless telephone services to send a text message to 911.
According to the Federal Communications Commission data, if you attempt to send a text to 911 where text-to-911 service is unavailable, you will receive an immediate “bounce-back” message that text-to-911 is not available and that you should contact emergency services by another means, such as by making a voice call or using telecommunications relay services (the latter for consumers who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability).
Harlan County Emergency Management Director David McGill said Harlan County does not have this service at this time, but it is possible the county will look into obtaining the service in the near future.
McGill described the text-to-911 service as a way that people can actually text their 911 call to the 911 center, but they also have the capability of sending photographs.
“This would be a good addition to our 911 system, because if individuals can send in texts and pictures it helps to document the issue more clearly and it’s a record for future need if we need to have an emergency declaration or for insurance purposes,” said Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop. “We would have documentation on-the-scene real-time data. However, at this time the county has no plans to purchase this service.
“We’ll have to look this over and maybe in the future we can add this. Certainly at first blush, it’s a great project to add on to our 911 system. When we have more information about this we will consider adding this service. Funding for the service would have to be provided through Harlan Fiscal Court.”
McGill added the text-to-911 service could be utilized in the event of low cell service or in a situation where someone couldn’t talk on the phone due to being afraid someone might hear them or to have the opportunity to give a visual picture to a dispatcher so that information could be relayed to first responders as well.
Nola Sizemore may be reached at 606-909-4147 or on Twitter @Nola_hde