Frederick County Public Safety Communications is pleased to announce that Text-to-911 is now live in Frederick County. Public Safety Communications Director LeeAnna Pyles said wrapping up the near 7-month long process is very rewarding adding that “we are proud to bring Text-to-911 services to our community through the newest technology and to take this opportunity to educate the public about the benefits and downsides of Text-to-911 service. We are the first in our immediate area to provide this service.”
While it is generally preferable to place a phone call to 911, 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.
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
As added protection, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) requires “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).
Director Pyles advises people to be aware that 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.
Full information on the system and how to properly utilize Text-to-911 is provided at www.fcva.us/text911.