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In the News

CAPCOG launches Text to 9-1-1 region wide

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The Capital Area Council of Governments has deployed Text to 9-1-1 service region wide after successfully testing for the region’s 31 public safety answering points (PSAPs), or 9-1-1 call centers, capability to receive and respond to SMS text messages. The service is now activated on the four major cellphone service providers —Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, Sprint, and T-Mobile.

“Text to 9-1-1 is a great addition to emergency response; however, the service has several limitations, so residents should familiarize themselves with them before texting 9-1-1 and most importantly remember to ‘Call if you can, text if you can’t,’” said Gregg Obuch, CAPCOG’s Emergency Communications Director.

Text to 9-1-1 is the ability to send a cellphone text message to a local 9-1-1 call center. It is especially beneficial to those who are hard of hearing, deaf, or speech-impaired, but residents should only text 9-1-1 when calling 9-1-1 is unsafe or not possible.

Examples of when texting 9-1-1 would be beneficial include:

  • The caller cannot speak due to a threat, illness or medical condition
  • The caller has poor reception and can only send text messages
  • Phone lines and cellphone towers are overwhelmed and only texts can get through

Cellphone service providers only offer text messaging as a “best effort service” meaning providers do not guarantee a message will be delivered, said Obuch, who noted that text messages also can take longer to receive or can be delivered out of order. The only way to know a text reached a 9-1-1 call center is when the center texts back. If the sender thinks a text was not received, he or she should call 9-1-1.

Text to 9-1-1 only is available in English. However, 9-1-1 voice calls can be processed in multiple languages, because all CAPCOG 9-1-1 call centers provide emergency interpretive services. Text to 9-1-1 does not work if the sender texts using group messages, emojis, pictures or videos. Apps that text other app users (such as WhatsApp) or texting via social media (such as Facebook Messenger) do not support Text to 9-1-1.

To help educate residents about using Text to 9-1-1, CAPCOG has developed video and audio PSAs and a FAQ about the service. All are available at www.capcog.org/text911. Local jurisdictions are encouraged to share the FAQ and PSAs with residents via social and other media. They always should encourage residents to “Call if you can, text if you can’t” – the national slogan for Text to 9-1-1.

> Learn more about Text to 9-1-1.
> View or download the Text to 9-1-1 PSAs.
> Read about the CAPCOG Emergency Communications Division.

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