What if reporting a crime was as simple as sending a text message? Soon, texting 911 will be possible in one Pennsylvania county.
Along with three Philadelphia suburban counties and the PA Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), Montgomery County is bringing new equipment and software that will allow for 911 texting, according to CitizensCall.net. Dispatchers will also be trained to properly handle any complications that can emerge through communications solely through text messaging.
The service could be a helpful tool for contacting emergency services for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, have a speech disability, or are in a situation where making a voice call is impossible or dangerous to the caller, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
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Currently if you text 911, you will receive a bounce-back text response saying that the Text-to-911 service is not available.
While Montgomery has joined Bucks, Chester and Berks counties in the initiative, Delaware County is holding off until the county can be sure that emergency call operators can determine the precise location of the text messages being received, according to DelcoTimes.com.
Currently in Pennsylvania, Allegheny, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lehigh and Luzerne counties have or are about to deploy the Text-to-911 service. New Jersey and Delaware have not accepted the new program.
The availability of the service is also dependent on the cell phone carrier you use. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon signed voluntary commitments to make the service available by May 15 in areas where the technology is up-to-date for the program. However, not all regions have this service for all carriers. Currently Allegheny and Lancaster do not support AT&T, while Dauphin only supports Verizon.
The FCC says that most consumers still will not be able to reach 911 through text messaging, and that whenever possible, people should make a voice call 911 instead.