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“Call if you Can — Text if you Can’t”; Text to 911

SAN BERNARDINO-( On Tuesday, December 15th the answer to many 911 concerns was officially put into place, text to 9-1-1. This solution is the answer for those that are in situations where it is too dangerous to call 911 or for those with hearing and/or speech impairment.

As of 2014 over 16 states already implemented this system, adding to the somewhat antiquated circa 1960 911 technology. “Call if you can — text if you can’t” is the

Following the press conference a Text to 911 is demonstrated by dispatch (Photo Courtesy of San Bernardino County Sheriffs Department)
Following the press conference a Text to 911 is demonstrated by dispatch
(Photo Courtesy of San Bernardino County Sheriffs Department)

slogan developed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as the new technology makes its debut in parts of California.

During the Tuesday afternoon press conference the San Bernardino County Fire and Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and State Emergency Communications 9-1-1 officials announced this system effective immediately. As some may already know, this system has been working for several weeks, but the announcement came once the system was thoroughly checked for reliability.

The service is interned for the deaf, hard-of hearing, speech impaired or those in situations where a 911 call may be too dangerous. In order to use this service, phones or devices must include a text or data plan in order to send this text. Dispatchers are trained and ready to receive these texts and to assist callers. The San Bernardino County Fire Department officials said, that while the technology is evolving, it is another tool to help those who are often the most vulnerable in our communities if they cannot call 9-1-1.

The Tuesday afternoon announcement came after the nation’s four largest wireless service providers, AT&T Mobility, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, in cooperation with the FCC, National Emergency Number Association, and the Association of Public Safety Officials agreed in 2012 to provide Text-to-9-1-1 as a nationwide interim solution until the Next Generation of 9-1-1 is deployed. Those this system can benefit is not limited to only the hearing-impaired, but also when a crime is in process, the caller is facing domestic abuse, the caller is injured and cannot speak, or other scenarios.

Here are the FCC guidelines for how to contact 9-1-1:

If you use a wireless phone or other type of mobile device, make sure to do the following in an emergency: If you can, always contact 9-1-1 by making a voice call, “Call if you can – text if you can’t.”

If you are deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech disabled, and Text-to- 9-1-1 is not available, use a TTY or telecommunications relay service, if available. –

If you text 9-1-1 and text is not available in your area, you will receive a bounce back message advising “text is not available please make a voice call to 9-1-1.”

Location accuracy varies by carrier and should not be relied upon. Be prepared to give your location.

Text-to-9-1-1 service will not be available if the wireless carrier cannot ascertain a location of the device sending the message.

Text-to-9-1-1 is not available if you are roaming.

A text or data plan is required to place a text to 9-1-1.
Photos and videos cannot be sent to 9-1-1. They cannot be received at the 9-1-1 center at this time.

Text messages should be sent in plain language and not contain popular abbreviations (SMH, LOL, ICYMI) or emojis, which will not be recognized.

Text-to- 9-1-1 cannot be sent to more than one person. Do not send your emergency text to anyone other than 9-1-1.

Texts must be in English only. There currently is no language interpretation for text available. This is still in development.

The following is a list of law enforcement and fire agencies that are currently equipped to receive Text-to-9-1-1 for San Bernardino County:

Barstow Police Department
Chino Police Department
California Highway Patrol – Barstow
California Highway Patrol – Inland Empire
Colton Police Department
Confire Communication Center (San Bernardino County Fire Department, Apple Valley, Big Bear, Colton, Loma Linda, Montclair, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Rialto, Running Springs, Twenty-Nine Palms, and Upland Fire Departments)
Cal State University San Bernardino Police Department
Fontana Police Department
Montclair Police Department
Ontario Police Department
Redlands Police Department
Rialto Police Department
San Bernardino Police/Fire Department
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department
Valley Control Center/dispatch
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Desert Control Center/dispatch
Upland Police Department

For additional information regarding Text-to-9-1-1, please contact your local fire or law enforcement agency.

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