Santa Clarita residents now have “another tool in the 911 toolbox,” officials said Monday, with the launch of a new text-to-911 service.
The effort, which was introduced this past week for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station’s first-responders, is still intended as a supplement to the traditional means, a phone call, which is still preferred, said Bryan May, PIO for the California Office of Emergency Services.
“So the whole technology is still geared toward the deaf and hard of hearing community,” May said, noting the program is still gaining functionality as officials expand its rollout, “and those who are in situations where it would be dangerous for them to talk.”
As a part of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) “call it if you can – text it if you can’t” campaign, officials say that the ability to text 9-1-1 will make it easier for those in dangerous situations, such as a when someone is being held against their will, to contact deputies.
The department pointed to domestic violence cases as an example of this type of situation.
“When a caller has been the victim of a domestic violence situation and they are hiding somewhere inside the house from the suspect,” the press release said, “they will have the ability to just text 9-1-1 and type the information needed by the emergency dispatcher.”
May shared a few notes that explain why the traditional call option is still the No. 1 route when it’s available:
“Phone calls can ping accuracy with much more pinpoint,” he said.
In addition, the service is in English only, for now, although they’re working on how to figure out translations.
“We are working on different language translations, we have to start somewhere and this is where we started,” he said.
He also noted the program cannot accept images being text over, but that was also something the program was working to include.
Most Los Angeles County dispatch centers are now equipped to receive and respond to mobile phone SMS Text to 9-1-1 messages. This service is available for use by the deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired, and in situations where it is too dangerous to make a voice call to 9-1-1.
Below are the FCC guidelines for how to contact 9-1-1. If you use a wireless phone or other type of mobile device, make sure to do the following in an emergency:
- If you can, always contact 9-1-1 by making a voice call, “Call if you can – text if you can’t.”
- If you are deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech disabled, and Text to 9-1-1 is not available, use a TTY or telecommunications relay service, if available.
- If you text 9-1-1 and text is not available in your area, you will receive a bounce back message advising “text is not available please make a voice call to 9-1-1.”
- Location accuracy varies by carrier and should not be relied upon. Be prepared to give your location.
- Text to 9-1-1 service will not be available if the wireless carrier cannot ascertain a location of the device sending the message.
- Text to 9-1-1 is not available if you are roaming.
- A text or data plan is required to place a text to 9-1-1.
- Photos and videos cannot be sent to 9-1-1. They cannot be received at the 9-1-1 center at this time.
- Text messages should be sent in plain language and not contain popular abbreviations (SMH, LOL, ICYMI) or emojis, which will not be recognized.
- Text to 9-1-1 cannot be sent to more than one person. Do not send your emergency text to anyone other than 9-1-1.
- Texts must be in English only. There currently is no language interpretation for text available. This is still in development.
Perry Smith contributed to this report.