TULARE, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — Wireless customers within Tulare city limits can now send text messages to 911 for emergency help when they are not able to make a 911 phone call.
The service is available to any Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, Comcast or Sprint customers within range of a cell tower in the city.
Sgt. Ed Hinojosa said the new system is not designed to replace calling 911 but was instead developed as an enhancement to reaching 911 services in three specific situations: The caller is hearing or voice impaired, a medical emergency that renders the person incapable of speech, or when talking out loud would put the caller in danger, such as a home invasion, an abduction, a domestic violence incident or an active shooter situation.
Hinojosa said the police department is honored to be one of the first agencies in the Valley to be selected to provide the service.
Areas where text to 911 is not available will receive a “bounce back” message telling them to make a phone call instead.
Wireless customers in Tulare 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
- Calling 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency. It may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a text to 911 situations because of the time involved: Someone must enter the text; the message must go over the network, and the 911 operator must read the text and then text back
- Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative since Tulare Police’s dispatch center will receive only the location of the cell phone tower closest to the call’s origin
- 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 Tulare. If customers are outside or near the edge of the city, the message may not reach Tulare Police, however it may go out to another agency such as the California Highway Patrol or the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office
- Texts sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages
- Wireless customers who use 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 native SMS provided by Wireless Service Provider. Customers should consult their over-the-top (OTT) messaging provider to determine if and how text to 911 is provided by the OTT application
- The texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire or emergency medical services. For non-emergency situations, customers should contact their local public safety agency through a 10 digit non-emergency number
- Text to 911 should only be used to communicate between emergency help and the texter with no pictures, video, other attachments or other recipients appended to the message