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The original item was published from 9/10/2020 2:27:29 PM to 9/10/2020 2:30:27 PM.

News Flash


Posted on: September 10, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Call If You Can, Text If You Can’t

News Flash_Call If You Can, Text If You Cant

On September 8, 2020, the Santa Rosa Police Department is now offering Text to 9-1-1 services for our residents to report emergencies who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability, or who cannot safely call 9-1-1 in a dangerous situation.

Dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency is still the preferred way to request help, and the public is reminded to “Call if you can, text if you can’t.”  For most people, sending a text to 9-1-1 will not replace making a call.

Appropriate scenarios for texting 9-1-1 could include:

  • Deaf, hard of hearing callers or individuals with a speech disability.
  • The caller is unable to speak due to a medical issue or other condition.
  • When speaking out loud would put the caller in danger, such as a home invasion, an abduction, a domestic violence incident or an active-shooter scenario.

 “Call if you can, text if you can’t” is the slogan developed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as the new technology makes its debut in parts of California.

Text to 9-1-1 requires a cell phone that has the capability to send text messages, and location services must be enabled. While currently, the texting service is only available in English, other language solutions are in development and will be implemented as soon as they become available. Similarly, the system cannot receive photos and videos at this time.

Tips on texting 9-1-1 in an emergency:

  • Be sure to include clear information about the location (including city) of the emergency with the type of help needed (police, fire, or medical) in the first text message sent to 911. Emergency personnel cannot always determine your location.
  • Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.
  • Text messages should be brief, easily understood, and should not contain abbreviations, emojis, or slang.
  • Stay on the line until the dispatcher closes the dialog, if it is safe to do so.
  • You cannot include 9-1-1 in a group text.
  • If you are roaming, text service is dependent on roaming provider.
  • Don’t forget to silence your phone if you don’t want to be heard.
  • Do not text and drive.

Text to 9-1-1 does have limitations, as it only works in cities that provide the service. Also, unlike a voice call, text messages are not real-time communication and are subject to issues such as messages being received out of order or being delayed to carrier limitations and volume.

Text to 9-1-1 Frequently Asked Questions:

What is Text to 9-1-1 technology?

  • Text to 9-1-1 is the ability to send a text message to 9-1-1 from your mobile phone or handheld device. 

Can I Text to 9-1-1 everywhere?

  • Text to 9-1-1 is not available everywhere.
  • If Text to 9-1-1 is not available in your area, or is temporarily unavailable, you should receive a message indicating that Text to 9-1-1 is not available and to contact 9-1-1 by other means.
  • You must subscribe to your wireless carrier’s text or data plan to send or receive text messages.

When should I text 9-1-1?

  • Dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency is still the preferred way to request help, and the public is reminded to “Call if you can. Text if you can’t.”
  • Text to 9-1-1 is intended primarily for use in three emergency scenarios:

          1. For an individual who is deaf, hard-of-hearing or has a speech disability.
          2. For someone who is in a situation where it is not safe to place a voice call to 9-1-1.
          3. A medical emergency that renders the person incapable of speech.

  • ONLY text 9-1-1 in an emergency. Prank-texters can be identified and possibly prosecuted according to local laws/regulations. 

What are the challenges with Text to 9-1-1 service?

  • As with all text messages, Text to 9-1-1 may take longer to receive and respond to than a voice call, does not provide the location of the texter and could be received out of order, or may not be received at all.
  • Text GPS location information is not equal to current wireless location technology.
  • Voice calls are real-time communication and Text to 9-1-1 is not.
  • Pictures or videos cannot be received by 9-1-1 at this time.
  • If you include anyone else on your Text to 9-1-1, it may not be received by 9-1-1.
  • Currently, translation services for Text to 9-1-1 are not available; please text in English only. 

How do I text to 9-1-1?

  • Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” or “Recipient” field.
  • The first text to 9-1-1 should be short, include the location of the emergency, and ask for police, fire or ambulance.
  • Push the “Send” button.
  • Answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.
  • Text in simple words – no abbreviations or slang.
  • Keep text messages short.

How will I know if 9-1-1 received my text?

  • A 9-1-1 call center should respond to the text.
  • If Text to 9-1-1 is not available, you should receive a message from the wireless carrier stating that Text to 9-1-1 is not available and that you must place a voice or relay call to 9-1-1.

Is there a charge to text-to-9-1-1?

  • Standard text messaging rates apply.

Media inquiries about Text to 9-1-1 services in Santa Rosa, should be directed to Communications Supervisor, Brian Ambrosi, at (707) 543-3678 or [email protected].

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