YORK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) - Some wireless customers will be able to utilize text messaging to get in contact with 911 during an emergency.
Any Verizon Wireless customer in the area of York County, Poquoson and Williamsburg will be able to use the service. The Text to 911 service is intended primarily for those with hearing impairments or anyone who may be in a situation where a voice call would be more dangerous.
"The safety and security of the citizens and visitors in York County and the Cities of Poquoson and Williamsburg is our number one concern," Terry Hall, Chief of Emergency Communications for York-Poquoson-Williamsburg ECC said. "Text to 911 could be a life-saver, especially for people who might otherwise not be able to make a voice call. I want to congratulate my team for their work and for setting an example for other public safety professionals."
The York-Poquoson-Williamsburg Emergency Communications Center is the first in the U.S. to use the SMS911 gateway.
"Verizon Wireless has been at the forefront of working with public safety stakeholders to bring text to 911 to our customers," said Marjorie Hsu, vice president, Network, for Verizon Wireless. "Our choice of TCS to deploy our SMS911 Nation Gateway enables us to bring reliable emergency communications to PSAPs across the country. We were proud to work alongside the team in York County as they are the first PSAP to deploy this new solution."
The York-Poquson Sheriff's Office issued the following guidelines for the use of the service:
- Customers should use the texting option only when calling 911 is not an option.
- Using a phone to call 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency. It may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a text to 911 situation because of the time involved: someone must enter the text, the message must go over the network and the 911 telecommunicator must read the text and then text back.
Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since the York-Poquoson-Williamsburg Emergency Communications Center will receive only an approximate location of the cell phone, and will not be able to speak with the person sending the text. Text abbreviations or slang should never be used so that the intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible.
- Customers must be in range of cell towers in the York County, Poquoson and Williamsburg area. If customers are outside or near the edge of the county, the message may not reach the York-Poquoson-Williamsburg Emergency Communications Center.
- Texts sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.
- Verizon Wireless customers who use Usage Controls should remove the Usage Controls feature to ensure full text to 911 capability.
- Verizon Wireless customers must have mobile phones that are capable of sending text messages. Any text message to 911 will count either against their messaging bundle or be charged at 20 cents each. Customers on ShareEverything plans have unlimited texts as part of their plans, including text to 911.
- The solution is available for customers who use the SMS provided by Verizon Wireless. It is not available for third-party text messaging applications that can be downloaded to the phone or for applications that do not use SMS technology.
- The texting function 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 to the York-Poquoson-Williamsburg Emergency Communication Center through its non-emergency line at (757) 890-3621.
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