The state of Minnesota recently launched the Text-to-911 service that would enable people with hearing impairment to contact 911 centers in cases of emergencies. Emergency situations cause a lot of panic, especially when every second counts. Having the inability to not verbally communicate in such dire situations can cause deaf people to get frightened even more. This new service aims to help them tackle this overwhelming issue.
In case of an emergency, the person should enter 911 in the “To” field, and text their exact address and type of emergency. Even though cell phones can send location, the sent location may not be accurate – hence the need for texting the exact address. Using simple words is encouraged, and the person texting should avoid using emojis, abbreviations, pictures or slang. It is possible that the dispatcher will answer a bunch of questions, so the person should be ready to provide answers as quickly as possible.
Dispatchers’ preferred method to contact them is still phone calls so they could assess the situation by listening to background noise. Also, texting comes with its own set of challenges – texts may not be delivered instantly (and sometimes not at all depending on the person’s location and signal strength), and may get out of order if they are longer than 160 characters. However, having the ability to initiate contact with a dispatcher is huge for deaf people, and can help alleviate tension in emergencies. The general motto everyone should keep in mind is “Call if you can, text if you can’t”.
Did you know that there are other states and counties that already provide text to 911 services? The FCC’s website has a list of all counties in the US that have this service enabled. This list is updated monthly.
Watch the video below to learn more about Minnesota’s Text-to-911 service.