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Text to 911 Service Expanded in Allentown

06/09/2014
Text to 911 Service Expanded in Allentown

The City of Allentown, partnering with Telecommunications Systems Inc. (TSC), has successfully expanded its Text to 9-1-1 service to include T-Mobile wireless customers.

In April, Allentown became one of less than (100) 9-1-1 Centers in the country to provide Verizon Wireless customers an interim solution for short message service (SMS) text messages to 911 for emergency help when a person is unable to make a 911 voice call. T-Mobile customers within the City of Allentown are also now able to utilize this potentially lifesaving service.

“I’m very happy to see our Text to 9-1-1 service expand to other carriers,” said Mayor Ed Pawlowski. “Any time we can enhance on our public safety service is a positive result for both the citizens and first responders of the city.”

“In the short time that we have been providing Text to 9-1-1 Service, we have already seen usage by our citizens who were unable to make a voice call to 9-1-1,” said Superintendent of Communication Michael Hilbert. “In these instances, public safety personnel were able to be promptly dispatched to resolve the situation”.

The service is currently available only to any Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile customer within range of an Allentown cell tower. The Allentown 9-1-1 Center has also requested Text to 9-1-1 Service from the other major wireless carriers; ATT and Sprint; and looks forward to allowing their customers to access the emergency services of the City of Allentown via Text within the next six months.

Text to 911 is intended primarily for use in two emergency scenarios:
 
o For an individual who is speech or hearing impaired and…
 
o For a person who is unable to make a voice call, for example during a medical emergency that renders the person incapable of speech, or in the instance of a home invasion, domestic violence, or abduction.

Customers should use the texting option only when calling 911 is NOT an option.
Users should call if they can and text if they can’t.

Using a phone to call 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help.

o Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency.

o It may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a text to 911 situation because of the time involved:

• Someone must enter the text, the message must go over the network and the 911 telecommunicator must read the text and then text back.

There are texting guidelines that should be followed.

Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since the Allentown Communications Center will receive only an approximate location of the cell phone, and will not be able to speak with the person sending the text.

Text messages sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.

SMS-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.

Text abbreviations or slang should never be used so that the intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible.

o Customers must be in range of cell towers in the Allentown area. If customers are outside or near the edge of the county, the message may not reach the Allentown Communications Center.

o In these cases, the customer will receive a ‘Bounce Back’ message advising them to make a voice call to 9-1-1.

Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile 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 their respective wireless carrier.

The texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire or emergency medical services.

Non-emergency issues should still be communicated to the Allentown Communications Center through its non-emergency line at (610) 437-7751.

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