County Commissioner Randy Phiel announced on Friday that citizens in Adams County can now send a text message to the phone number 911 for emergency help when making a 911 voice call is not possible or does not seem appropriate.
According to Adams County Department of Emergency Services Director Warren Bladen, the “Text-to-911” service was not developed as a replacement to a voice call to 911 in an emergency situation, but rather as an enhancement to reach 911 services in three specific situations:
- The caller is hearing/voice impaired
- a medical emergency renders the person incapable of speech
- when speaking out loud would put the caller in danger, such as a home invasion, a domestic violence incident, or an active shooter scenario.
Bladen said when in an emergency, all wireless callers should remember to “call if you can; text if you can’t”.
Using a phone to call 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency. It may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a text-to-911 situation because of the time involved: Someone must enter the text, the message must go over the network, and the 911 telecommunicator must read the text and then text back.
Many carriers have a limit on the number of characters that can be texted so give the most important information first. Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since the 911 center will initially only receive a coarse location. Text abbreviations, emoticons or slang should never be used so that the intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible.
As with any 911 call, the texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire, or emergency medical services. For non-emergency situations, customers should contact their local public safety agency via the non-emergency number: 717-334-8101.