Kitsap County is the first county in the state to allow people to send text messages to 911 for emergency assistance.
The Washington State E911 Coordinator’s Office is working closely with the county as it begins offering the new service, according to a press release.
If someone sends a text to 911 while in a city or county without text-to-911 service, a message will come back saying there is no text service to 911 available. The text will advise making a phone call.
“This new technology is not meant to replace the traditional phone call to 911,” said Washington State E911 Coordinator Ziggy Dahl. “In fact, we still urge those in a crisis to call 911 and speak with call takers if they have the ability. Text-to-911 is a good alternative for those who are unable to speak during an emergency — something like a home invasion, or domestic violence situation. This is also an important tool for those individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or cannot speak.”
The state E911 Coordinator’s Office is working closely with all of the state’s counties to facilitate Text-to-911 service statewide, the release states. “It’s important to get this capability fielded, but even more important to get it working correctly.”
E911 Coordiator’s Office advises people should understand the following when texting 911:
- The first message should contain the location of the emergency, including city, and the type of help needed if known, such as police, fire or medical.
- The text message should be brief and concise and use full words
- Stay with the phone, be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 call taker
- Photos and videos cannot be sent to 911 at this time
The office also notes that there are natural time delays inherent to texting back and forth that people should keep in mind.
“Remember,” the release concludes, “A Voice Call to 911 will usually get help on the way far more quickly. So, we ask you to ‘Call if you can, text if you can’t.”