Texting has become second nature to many Americans, and a communication game changer for the 55.5 million Americans who have hearing loss, deafness, or speech disabilities. Due to the changes in technology, texting instead of voicing is the go-to communication choice for 7 out of 10 Americans. Consequently, we now need to support texting as an option in the 911 emergency services arena. Enter text-to-911!
What is text-to-911? It is a ruling of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that will make the ability to text a 911 call across the nation available in emergencies. The FCC, 911 call centers, and providers of text services, are all working together so that when we reach out in crisis, we can reach out via text. This additional means of obtaining 911 service will soon be a feature of the 911 emergency services in North Dakota.
The ability to text will complement current services, and increase options for needed emergency help. Some examples of how text-to-911 have been used are: 1) texting when the wireless carriers signal was not strong enough for voice; 2) texting in an abusive situation where voicing was not possible; and 3) texting after a medical crisis took away an individuals ability to speak.
To see how text-to-911 will work in North Dakota, take a look at this video created in Vermont, where text-to-911 is available statewide. To obtain the same information in American Sign Language click here.
Adding texting as a means of requesting help through text-to-911 will be of benefit to many, and for many different reasons. It is critical to note however, that text-to-911 will be offered as a complement to, not a substitute for, existing voice-based 911 service. So, consumers should make a voice call to contact 911 during an emergency when possible; and consumers who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired should use relay services, or other existing methods to contact 911 if text-to-911 is unavailable.
Look for an announcement later this year on the availability of text-to-911 in North Dakota. And remember, once it is up and running “call when you can, text when you can’t.”