On Wednesday, October 3 the Capital Area Council of Governments(CAPCOG) deployed Text to 9-1-1 service region wide after successfully testingthat the region’s 31 public safety answering points (PSAPs), or 9-1-1 callcenters, can reliably receive and respond to SMS text messages. The service isnow activated on the four major cellphone service providers —Verizon Wireless,AT&T Mobility, Sprint, and T-Mobile — in Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell,Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis and Williamson counties.
“Text to 9-1-1 is a greataddition to emergency response; however, the service has several limitations soresidents should familiarize themselves with them before texting 9-1-1 and mostimportantly remember to ‘Call if you can, text if you can’t,’” said GreggObuch, CAPCOG’s Emergency Communications director. A full Q&A about text to9-1-1 is available at capcog.org/text911.
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.
• The caller cannotspeak 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 getthrough
Cellphoneservice providers only offer text messaging as a “best effort service” meaningproviders do not guarantee a message will be delivered, said Obuch, who notedthat text messages also can take longer to receive or can be delivered out oforder. The only way to know a text reached a 9-1-1 call center is when thecenter texts back. If the sender thinks a text was not received, he or sheshould call 9-1-1. Call centers also don’t automatically receive a cellphoneuser’s location information when texting 9-1-1.
Text to 9-1-1 only is available in English. However, 9-1-1 voice calls can beprocessed in multiple languages, because all CAPCOG 9-1-1 call centers provideemergency interpretive services. Text to 9-1-1 does not work if the sendertexts using group messages, emojis, pictures or videos. Apps that text otherapp users (such as WhatsApp) or texting via social media (such as FacebookMessenger) do not support Text to 9-1-1.
1. Callif you can, text if you can’t.
2. Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” field.
3. The first text message should be brief and contain the location of theemergency and type of help needed.
4. Push the send button.
5. Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1call taker.
6. Text in English and in simple words – do not use abbreviations.
7. Keep text messages brief and concise.
8. Once you have initiated a Text to 9-1-1 conversation, do not turn offyour phone until the dispatcher tells you it is ok to do so.
CAPCOG also developed two video public service announcements which can be viewed at capcog.org/text911. They also were distributed to local jurisdictions to share with residents.