FEBRUARY 2019: During an emergency, dialing 911 is a call for help. But people with hearing loss or those who must remain quiet in a dangerous situation aren’t able to place a call safely or at all.
Frederick county residents needing emergency services are now able to text their situation to dispatchers at the Frederick County 911 Dispatch Center.
We are proud to announce that Frederick County is now offering Text-to-911 services for our community through the newest technology.
Customers of the nation’s four major wireless carriers can now text information to 911 dispatchers.
The successful deployment of text-to-911 services with AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile, all customers of the four major wireless carriers in the area are now able to utilize this potentially lifesaving service.
Text-to-911 is intended primarily for use in specific emergency scenarios:
- for an individual who is speech, or hearing, impaired;
- for a person who is unable to call 911 due to a medical emergency that renders them unable to speak;
- in the event of a crime such as a home invasion where speaking might give away the location of a person hiding, or in an abduction situation; or,
- in domestic violence situations where it’s not safe to make a voice call.
When determining whether to make voice call or send a text keep the following in mind:
- Callers should text 911 only when calling is not an option
- Texting is not always instantaneous, which means it may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a text-to-911 situation
- Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since
- Frederick County 911 may not receive location information and will not be able to speak with the person sending the text. Text abbreviations or slang should never be used to that the intent of the message can be as clear as possible.
- Those who use the system must have a cell phone that is activated and capable of sending text messages in order to reach 911 via text. There is no charge to the customer for sending a text to 911.
There are some drawbacks to using text-to-911 which county residents must be aware of and keep in mind. The National Emergency Numbering Association offered several information points which should be noted if you need to text 911:
- Text location information is not equal to current location technology.
- As with all text messages, 911 messages can take longer to receive, can get out of order, or may not be received.
- Text to 911 is not available if you are roaming.
- A text or data plan is required to place a text-to-911
- If texting to 911 is not available in your area, or is temporarily unavailable, you will receive a message indicating that texting to 911 is not available and to contact 911 by other means.
- Photos may be sent however will not be immediately available to the dispatcher as they have to contact the West provider to retrieve them.
- It is not safe to text and drive.
How 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 the type of help needed;
- Push the “Send” button.
- Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 call taker.
- Text in simple words – do not use abbreviations.
- Keep text messages brief and concise.
As added protection, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) will require “bounce-back messages” be sent to your phone in case the text does not go through.
If you attempt to send a text to 911 where the service is unavailable, FCC rules require all wireless carriers and other text messages providers to send an automatic bounce-back message.
Consumers who receive this bounce-back message will be advised to contact emergency services by another means, such as making a voice call or using a telecommunications relay service (the latter for consumers who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability).
The bounce-back requirement is intended to inform consumers and minimize the risk of a consumer mistakenly believing that a text to 911 has been transmitted to the public safety answering point (PSAP) where the service is not available.