Now, there’s another way to get 911 help. In addition to dialing 911 in an emergency, you can text for assistance.
Text messaging 911 is a tool that Washington police hope will help those who cannot call for aid. It’s a useful solution to crises in certain circumstances, but Washington police want to point out that calling 911 is almost always a better option.
The new texting services offer remedies for those who cannot call 911 in an emergency because it’s not safe to speak, phone service is out, they can’t speak, or they can’t reach traditional services for any other reason. It provides almost immediate assistance by giving people the ability to transmit their locations and the nature of the emergency via text message.
Fairfax County and Others Offer 911 Text Messaging Service
For anyone needing help in Fairfax County, including the towns of Herdon, Vienna, Clifton, and the city of Fairfax, text messaging 911 emergency services is an option.
These areas join Frederick County, Maryland, in providing text-to-911 emergency services for anyone living in the counties or towns. Frederick County was one of the first jurisdictions in the United States to use the text-to-911 program. It was the first in the metro D.C. region as well.
Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T customers can text their locations and emergencies to 911, and an operator will respond with assistance. In 2014, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules that required all wireless carriers to enable 911 emergency texts for call centers that requested use of services. The FCC has spearheaded an effort to offer text-to-911 services across the country.
Currently, about 6,100 emergency call centers in the U.S. provide text-to-911 services. But, Steve Souder, Director of Fairfax County Department of Public Safety Communications, states that only about 360 centers offer 911 text messaging. This places Fairfax County in an enviable position. The county call center is one of the 5 percent of 911 call centers that give this valuable option to its residents, and to those who work in the area.
Why Text 911?
It’s important to note that in most cases, calling 911 is the best option. Text messages usually take longer to go through then voice calls, so call if you can. But, in certain circumstances, texting 911 makes sense. A few of the situations in which text messaging 911 is a good idea include:
- When a person is deaf or hard-of-hearing
- When someone has a speech disability
- When a person is not in a safe place to speak to 911
- When a medical emergency makes someone incapable of speaking
- When one is in a place where voice calls will not go through
- When storms or disasters have shut down voice service
The future of 911 text messaging will allow people to text videos and photos of their emergencies. The next generation of 911 services will look nothing like they do today, which is why Washington police hope people will embrace the new 911 emergency service offerings.