The Eufaula Police Department on Wednesday, announced the capabilities of being able to text to 911.

EPD Chief Steve Watkins noted that beginning Saturday, Feb. 1, INdigital, in coordination with the Alabama 911 Board, the Barbour County 911 Board and the 911 Center in Eufaula, will take a major step forward in public safety in this accessibility to 911.

According to the press release from the EPD, “With a commitment to better utilization of emerging technologies and a strong, coordinated approach to public safety, Barbour County joins 911 centers across the nation in the use of text messaging as another means through which those in need can contact 911 centers and vice versa.”

Watkins said the 911 Center in Eufaula has had to train, familiarize dispatchers and become proficient in the use of Text 911 over the last few months.

INdigital of Fort Wayne, Indiana, designed, built, and operates the Texty platform, which provides service to 911 agencies throughout the country. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, SouthernLINC, and Sprint have voluntarily committed that they will provide text to 911 service through this platform.

The service of 911 is provided at the local level throughout Alabama. In coordination with these local 911 entities, the Alabama 911 Board continues its rollout of the Alabama Next Generation Emergency Network (ANGEN) to strengthen public safety and improve access to 911.

Wireless customers that use Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, SouthernLINC, or Sprint should keep the following in mind if they send a text to 911:

» Customers should use the texting option only when calling 911 is not an option. Voice is always best, unless the caller is unable to speak or will endanger themselves by making noise.

» Using a phone to place a voice call to 911 is still the most efficient way to request help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency. It may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in text to 911 situations because of the time involved: someone must enter the text, the message must go over the network, and the 911 personnel must read the text before texting back

» Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since the 911 centers will receive only an approximate location of the device accessing 911 and will not be able to verbally communicate 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 area. If customers are outside or near the edge of a county, the message may not reach the intended 911 center.

» Texts sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.

» Wireless customers who have text messaging Usage Controls should remove this feature to ensure full text to 911 capabilities.

» Wireless customers must have mobile phones that are capable of sending text messages.

» The solution is available for customers who use the SMS provided by their Wireless provider. Text 911 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 local communications centers through their non-emergency lines.

» SMS911 should only be to communicate between emergency help and the texter with no pictures, video, other attachments or other recipients appended to the message.

Communicating with 911 dispatchers by voice is still more effective than text to 911. Using text should be limited to the following circumstances: When calling 911 is not possible, such as if the caller is deaf, hearing or speech impaired or if a caller is otherwise unable to speak, because of a medical condition (such as a stroke). Also, if speaking would be unsafe, as in the case of abduction or home invasion, texting 911 would be an alternative.

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