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Chilton County 911 adds text option

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Chilton County residents now have a new option to contact 911 dispatchers in an emergency if talking is not possible or would put them in danger.

The ability to text 911 was fully implemented on April 1.

The department is stressing that this option is for emergencies only.

Dan Wright of Chilton County e911 said adding a text option was required by a FCC mandate, however, the local department wanted to implement it to help the community.

“It is just another avenue for people to be able to access the 911 system,” Wright said.

Even during the days of testing, the 911 center has already seen a life saved because of this new communication option, he said.

Calling 911 when possible is still the best option. However, texting 911 should be used when the person cannot speak or when talking would be dangerous, such as in a domestic violence situation.

The first text to 911 in an emergency should include what the emergency is and the address where it is occurring in 160 characters or less.

Wright said this will save crucial minutes texting back and forth with 911.

Location is also verified using the phone’s GPS.

Clear language should be used instead of abbreviations or slang often used in messaging.

The Alabama 911 Board has made the INdigital software Texty to enable text to 911 capabilities available to the local 911 centers free of charge.

Wright encourages those in an emergency to call whenever possible because the 911 dispatcher can often pickup additional helpful information from what they hear in the background.

While text to 911 has been implemented other places, it has not been used as frequently as had been projected.

Wight said he thought some of this was due to the option still being not as well-known as calling.

Tara Scott of Chilton County 911 said many people find comfort in having a person on the other end of the phone during an emergency when they call 911.

Prank texts to 911 are punishable the same way a deliberate prank call to 911 is.

“Do not attempt to prank call 911 by text 911,” Wright said. “If someone chooses to prank call, the police will show up at your house.”

If someone accidentally calls or texts 911, Scott said it is important that they respond to the text or call 911 makes back to them stating that it was an accident and that they are fine.

“If you receive a text from 911 about a hang up call, please respond,” Scott said. “We are just following up.”

She said if there is no response to the text, then the dispatcher will call the number that had hung up. If the person cannot be contacted, emergency response will be sent to the location.

“If they will just respond, it’s fine we understand accidents happen,” Scott said.