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How to use text to 911 now that it's live in Kern County

Posted at 9:52 AM, Jul 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-16 21:25:03-04

Text-to-911 Now Available in Kern County
A direct line to help for those with hearing loss or when the reporting party must remain quiet to stay safe.

 In an emergency, dialing 911 is a call for help. But people with hearing loss or those who must remain quiet in a dangerous situation aren’t able to place a call safely or at all.  Kern County Public Safety personnel have worked with stakeholders around Kern County in partnership with CalOES 9-1-1 branch to implement Text-to-911. All residents of Kern County are now able to use the service throughout the county and eventually throughout the state of California.
An Emergency Lifeline
Text-to-911 is an alternative to calling in an emergency when it would be unsafe for an individual to speak.
Imagine having to hide from an intruder in your bedroom closet or witnessing a domestic violence situation. Text-to-911 is a lifeline for people who would put themselves in harm’s way if they called 911. Speaking with a dispatcher is still the fastest way to receive help, so call if you can, text if you can’t.
A New Solution for Deaf and Hearing Impaired  Individuals
The addition of Text-to-911 also means individuals who have some form of hearing loss will now be able to text dispatchers as a first contact option. The communications barriers they experience are frightening when seconds matter most in an emergency. Text-to-911 offers a direct way to communicate with 911 centers providing a solution to an overwhelming problem.
How to Text-to-911:  If there is an emergency and you cannot call 911, take these steps:

  1. Enter the numbers 911 in the "To" field. 
  2. Text your exact address and type of emergency. 
  3. Send the message. 
  4. Use simple words, but do not include abbreviations, emoji’s, pictures or slang.
  5. Promptly answer questions and follow instructions.

The physical act of texting 911 is not that difficult, but it’s important that people follow these steps and provide the 911 center with the most accurate information. If there’s a delay in answering a dispatcher’s questions, or if you don’t tell us where you are, we can’t help you. This will lead to valuable time lost in an emergency and take dispatchers away from other calls.
Best Practices and Challenges
Text-to-911 comes with challenges. For instance, emergency response may be lengthened due to the time it takes for a text to 911 to be typed and sent. Delivery of texts and speed of delivery are also not guaranteed. Here are several reminders to ensure the best service and response from dispatchers. 

  • Dispatchers prefer calls so they can get cues from background noise and voice inflections. If you text 911, dispatchers will ask if they can call you.
  • Location is not as accurate with texting as it is with a call. Be sure to text your exact address/location. 
  • A text or data plan is required to use Text-to-911.
  • Texts to 911 will get a bounce back message if you are roaming or if the receiving jurisdiction is unavailable to revive a text. (A bounce back message is a text message back to the sender indicating that Text-to-911 services are unavailable and to make a voice call.) 
  • Call do not text if you need medical aid. Every second is valuable.
  • Texts to 911 have a 160 character limit, can get out of order, or may not be received.
  • There is no language translation service for texts to 911.
  • Do not text and drive! 

The new service should only be used in emergencies. Texting 911 with a false report is a crime. If you accidentally send a text to 911, send another text, or call 911 to let the dispatcher know that there is no emergency.

Remember: Call if you can, text if you can’t.

This is the second new 911 initiative in Kern County this year. In May, the county implemented SMART 911. The online program allows users to create a profile for dispatchers to gather information a person calls 911. 

(Information Provided By KCSO)