Text-to-9-11 feature now available in Suffolk


FILE – In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo an iPhone displays the apps for Facebook and Messenger in New Orleans. Facebook says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will be violating the company’s rules if agents create fake profiles to monitor the social media of foreigners seeking to enter the country. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The Suffolk Police Department announced that Text-to-911 is now available for citizens to use their cell phone to contact 911 when they are unable to make a voice call.

In a press release, the police department said, “Text-to-911 is NOT a method of convenience, and a voice call is still the preferred and most efficient method for contacting 911.”

The Text-to-9-11 feature is intended for the following circumstances:

  • Deaf, hard of hearing, and speech-impaired community
  • A medical emergency that renders callers unable to speak
  • Situations when speaking aloud could potentially escalate the situation or put the caller in danger (such as domestic violence, home invasion, abduction, etc.)

To contact emergency services by text message the police say you can enter 911 without spaces or hyphens in the “To” field of your mobile phone, type your message into the message field, and then push the “send” button.

When texting 911 for an emergency, the first message should be the address or location of the emergency and the type of emergency help needed.

Police say you should keep text messages brief and concise, using full words, and do not text 911 in a group chat or send photos, videos, attachments, GIFs, or emojis.

In case of an emergency, police say you should stay with your phone, and be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 call taker.

If you are trying not to be overheard requesting help, police say to silence your phone.

Text-to-911 is a free option and works through short message service (SMS) with cellular carriers. This feature requires a text or data plan.

Police advise there may be instances where a voice call cannot connect due to poor cellular signal or other phone service interruption, but a text message can still go through.

A text sent to 911 in an area without text-to-911 service should receive an automatic reply stating the service is not available.

In addition, Suffolk Police are also welcoming a feature that gives dispatchers the ability to translate a text message into Spanish.

When dispatchers respond to a text in English, it will translate their message into Spanish for the individual to read.

Suffolk Police say a voice call is still the preferred and most efficient method for contacting 911, they advise citizens to call if you can, text if you can not.

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