Through Indiana’s strong, coordinated approach to public safety, local 911 centers across the state are now providing the public with access to 911 through the use of text messaging from their wireless handset. The nation’s four largest wireless telephone companies – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon – have agreed to voluntarily begin sending these text messages across their networks as of Thursday, May 15.
Text-to-911 is the ability to send a text message to reach 911 emergency dispatchers from your mobile phone. A media event was held in Indianapolis this morning to announce the program.
According to Barry Ritter, executive director of the Statewide 911 Board, “75 to 80 percent of all 911 calls come from a cell phone … Indiana has one of the most successful 911 programs in the U.S. and this project is the largest scale rollout of text-to-911 in our nation.”
Kosciusko County started with text FROM 911 in January 2013. They took the first text-to-911 call in October 2013, and were the first of five counties to go live with the service in February.
INdigital telecom of Fort Wayne designed, built and operate the IN911 network for the State 911 Board, which provides service to 911 agencies throughout the state.
Verizon Wireless and its technology partner, TeleCommunication Systems, was the first carrier to provide service. Three other carriers — T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T — have also voluntarily committed that they will provide service. The Federal Communications Commission wants all other wireless carriers to provide text-to-911 by the end of the year.
Important facts about 911
- Customers should use the texting option only when calling 911 is not an option. Using a phone to call 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency. It may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a text to 911 situation because of the time involved: someone must enter the text, the message must go over the network and the 911 telecommunicator must read the text and then text back.
- Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since the Indiana communications centers will receive only an approximate location of the cell phone, and will not be able to speak with the person sending the text. Text abbreviations or slang should never be used so that the intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible.
- Customers must be in range of cell towers in the area. If customers are outside or near the edge of a county, the message may not reach the Emergency Communications Center.
- Texts sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.
- Verizon Wireless customers who use Usage Controls should remove this feature to ensure full text to 911 capability.
- Verizon Wireless customers must have mobile phones that are capable of sending text messages.
- The solution is available for customers who use the SMS provided by Verizon Wireless. It is not available for third-party text messaging applications that can be downloaded to the phone or for applications that do not use SMS technology.
- The texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire or emergency medical services. Non-emergency issues should still be communicated to the local municipalities’ communications centers through their non- emergency lines.
- SMS911 should only be to communicate between emergency help and the texter with no pictures, video, other attachments or other recipients appended to the message.
Additional information is available at www.in911.net and www.textty.com.