Beginning September 1st, most citizens in Coweta County will be able to send a short message service (SMS) text message to 911 for emergency help when unable to make a 911 voice call. At this time, the new service will only be available to wireless customers of Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile when within range of a cell tower in Coweta County. Other providers are expected to add this feature in the future.
Text-to-911 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:
1) The caller is hearing/voice impaired.
2) a medical emergency renders the person incapable of speech.
3) when speaking out loud would put the caller in danger, such as a home invasion, a domestic violence incident, or an active shooter scenario.
When in an emergency situation, all wireless callers should remember to ‘call if you can; text if you can’t’
Coweta County citizens should keep the following important information in mind if they send a text-to-911:
· Customers should use the texting option only when calling 911 is not an option.
· 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.
· Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since the [PSAP] will initially only receive the location of the cell phone tower closest to the call’s origin.
· Text abbreviations, emoticons or slang should never be used so that the intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible.
· Customers must be in range of cell towers in [location]. If customers are outside or near the edge of the county, the message may not reach the [PSAP].
· Texts to 911 from areas where the service is not available will receive a “bounce back” message telling them to make a voice call.
· Texts sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.
· Wireless customers who use Usage Controls should remove this feature to ensure full text-to-911 capabilities.
· Wireless customers must have mobile phones that are capable of sending text messages. The solution is available for customers who use the native SMS provided by wireless carriers. Customers should consult their over- the-top (OTT) messaging provider to determine if and how text-to-911 is provided by the OTT application.
· 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 a 10-digit non-emergency number.
· Text-to-911 should only be used to communicate between emergency help and the texter. No pictures, video, other attachments, or other recipients can be appended to the message.