News : NHC Emergency Management Offers Text-to-911 Service
New Hanover County, NC, USA, Jan 20, 2016 -- Every day, thousands of people call 911 to report traffic accidents, health emergencies, or to report a crime.
What happens if you have a situation where you are unable to talk but still need 911 assistance?
New Hanover County Emergency Operations Center has a service that can help you, regardless of your cell phone carrier. All 5 carriers - Verizon, Sprint, T-mobile, AT&T, and US Cellular - will allow you to text 911 if you're in an emergency.
The process is much like when you call 911 but instead the operator will text you questions to determine what your emergency is, where you're located, and what your phone number is.
It is important to note, texting 911 is not taking the place of calling 911. In fact the motto of the 911 center is "Call if you can; text if you can’t."
"That verbal communication is so much more important," explained Matthew Langley, New Hanover County’s 911 trainer. "It’s so much easier to have a voice conversation than to have that text back and forth."
Texting 911 is only meant for instances where the person cannot talk on the phone because of safety concerns.
Those instances could vary from someone breaking into a home while the person is still inside, someone being kidnapped, or even in a domestic situation. All of those are times when talking on the phone could put the person in even more danger.
Additionally, the feature could be used as another tool for the deaf and hearing impaired.
Here is how it works:
Use 911 as the number you want to contact, then type out your message.
Put as much information as possible into that first text, including your address, phone number and exactly what happened to help speed up the process.
"We are going to ask them questions to try and narrow down the type of service they need," Langley said. "As well as questions for their safety and our field responders' safety."
The 911 operators are the ones who will disconnect the communication when they feel they've gathered as much information as possible, but Langley said in some cases they will keep the line open in case you can text back more details later.
The only problem with leaving the line open is that it ties up the operator from getting any other calls.
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So take the call center motto to heart and "call if you can; text of you can't".
Bladen County is the only other county in our area that has started the text-to-911 feature. Alisha Evans, Bladen County's 911 systems administrator, said that 3 of the 5 cell phone carriers are up and running. However, they are still working their connection with Spring and AT&T.
Brunswick County is building a new 911 center that will be equipped with 911 texting capabilities. That facility is expected to be completed by the end of Spring, but the Sheriff's Office said it will take longer than that for their system to be up and running.
WECT reached out to Pender and Columbus counties but have not heard back about whether they offer or will be offering this service any time soon.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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