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9-1-1 Texting is now an option in Allegany County

October 1st, 2020 by WCBC Radio

Research shows that nearly 6 billion text messages are sent every day in the United States, more than 2.2. trillion per year. SMS or text messaging has become a way of primary communication for many people to communicate. With this change, emergency communications centers across the country needed to adapt to the changes and upgrade their system to support this new wave of communication. 


“Text-to-9-1-1 gives a citizen the ability to send a message to the local 9-1-1 center during an emergency,” Allegany County Department of Emergency Services Joint Communications Chief Bryan Miller said. “Small amounts of caller data can be automatically be provided to emergency communication centers, such as the callers approximate location.”


The Allegany County Joint Communications Center, a central hub for emergency calls within Allegany County will be transitioning to the Next Generation 9-1-1 environment where “callers” will have the ability to call, text, or video call from any communication device via Internet Protocol-based networks, Miller said. 


“Having the ability for our communication specialists to see the scene of an incident in real time and potentially relay that information to our field operation units is monumental,” Miller said. “Other useful information that could be saved with the callers information is medical history (if pre-approved by the caller) or the building schematics.”


NENA, the 9-1-1 Association says there will be many significant benefits to consumers, especially in cases when the caller cannot communicate verbally. For example, text-to-9-1-1 will be useful to the approximately 34 million Americans who are hard of hearing, deaf or speech-impaired. It can also help in situations when a crime is in progress; the caller is facing domestic abuse; the caller is injured and cannot speak or other scenarios. 


Miller and NENA highlighted that even when text-to-9-1-1 becomes widely available, the best way to contact 9-1-1 will be to continue to dial 9-1-1, speaking directly to a communications specialist when possible. 


“Dialing 9-1-1 is still the fastest way to get a communication specialist trained to begin pre-arrival instructions and dispatch the appropriate resources,” Miller said. “Text-to-9-1-1 is just a tool that can be used if needed.”


To initiate a text-to-9-1-1 call, enter 9-1-1- in the “To” field of a new text message. Type a short message that includes the location of the emergency and the type of service required, meaning police, fire or medical. Respond to questions from the 9-1-1 specialist and follow the instructions provided. Use simple words, avoid slang and keep messages short. Do not text and drive.