City Launches Its Newest Text–to-911 Service

“Call if You Can, Text if You Can’t”

Monday, April 13, 2015

“Call if you can, text if you can’t,” that’s the message that Virginia Beach 9-1-1 Telecommunicators want the public to know. Emergency Communications and Citizens Services will launch its newest technological service, Text—to—9-1-1 the week of April 13. 

Thanks to partnerships with the four nationwide carriers, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, citizens and visitors in Virginia Beach will soon be able to send an emergency text message to 9-1-1 if they are unable to call for help. 

The new service will allow citizens who are deaf, hard of hearing, have trouble speaking or those who may be in a situation where it is unsafe for them to speak, a way to contact 9-1-1 to request emergency services from police, fire or emergency medical services. The most important thing to know is that texting provides very limited location information, so the location and type of emergency needs to be sent in the first text to 911 telecommunicators.  

“The public’s safety is a top priority for residents and visitors in Virginia Beach. ECCS is committed to providing the most technologically advanced 9-1-1 service available,” stated Athena Plummer, director of Emergency Communications and Citizens Services. “We are pleased to be able to provide this service to those who may have physical limitations and may not be able to call us.” 

As part of a larger Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) project, Virginia Beach is the first Southside Hampton Roads city to offer Text-to-9-1-1 service. They are joining their counterparts in James City County, York County and Williamsburg in being able to receive 9-1-1 text messages. 

Here are a few tips and suggestions that will help citizens use the tool more efficiently and effectively if needed: 

  • Texting 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 by calling the non-emergency number, 385-5000. 

  • Calling 9-1-1 is quicker, more efficient and preferred, so texting to 9-1-1 should be reserved for those who are deaf, hard of hearing, are unable to speak and those who are in a situation where speaking is unsafe.

  • Provide the location and nature of the emergency in the first text. This will enable help to be dispatched as quickly as possible.

  • Do not use slang, text speak, emoticons or abbreviations. This will ensure clear and concise information is relayed to call takers.

  • As with all text messages, 9-1-1 messages can take longer to receive, can be received out of order, or may not be received at all.

  • Service can be used by any text-capable cellular device and does not require a smartphone.

  • Texts sent to 9-1-1 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.

  • A text or data plan is required to place a text to 9-1-1 and costs may be incurred depending on an individual’s contract with their provider.

  • Communications Apps like iMessage, BBM, or WhatsApp will not work with the service, only standard SMS texts.

  • Text to 9-1-1 is not available if you are roaming.

  • If texting to 9-1-1 is not available or is temporarily unavailable, you will receive a bounce-back message indicating that texting 9-1-1 is not available and to place a voice call to 9-1-1.

  • Photos and videos cannot be sent to 9-1-1 at this time.

  • Texts to 9-1-1 cannot include more than one person – do not send your emergency text to anyone other than 9-1-1.

  • Remember “Do NOT text and drive!”

For more information and FAQs click here.

 

ATTENTION MEDIA: ECCS 911 will hold a demonstration of the new service on Monday, April 13, 2015 at 1 p.m. in Bldg. 30, 2508 Princess Anne Road. Please RSVP to Barbara Morrison bmorriso@vbgov.com or 385-4075.

 

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