Since late last December, 911 call centers in all King County cities and unincorporated areas were able accept texts from those who are unable to call during an emergency.
Text-to-9-1-1 is a new service in King County that will help those who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired, and anyone who might be unsafe if they were to be heard by an intruder or abusive partner.
“This is an important day for some of our most vulnerable residents that are not able to make a voice call in an emergency,” said Ben Breier, program manager for the King County E-911 Program Office.
While texting to 911 is a vital tool that increases accessibility to emergency services, the preferred method for those who can speak is to call. The key message to remember is “call if you can, text if you can’t.”
There are limits to texting 911. Those texts are treated like any other text messages on the network, meaning delays are possible and it may take additional time for a call taker to respond to texts. Also, 911 cannot receive photos or videos. The current system can only respond to texts in English.
If you text 911 in an emergency you can help authorities by:
• Sending the location of the emergency – including city – and the type of emergency help needed – police, fire, or medical – in the first message.
• Keep messages brief and concise.
• Type complete words
• Stay with your phone,be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from 911 call takers.
Text-to-911 is not yet available statewide. though Pierce County expects to go live early this year.
If a text is sent to a 911 call center that does not accept texts, wireless carriers will send an alert message warning that the text did not go through and to make a call instead.