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Text 911 Expands to Four Major Carriers

08/01/2014
Text 911 Expands to Four Major Carriers

The City of Allentown has successfully completed its TEXT to 9-1-1 deployment for all major wireless carriers.

Back 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. Service for T-Mobile customers was added in early June. With the successful deployment of Text to 911 services with AT&T and Sprint, all customers of the four major wireless carriers within the city are now able to utilize this potentially lifesaving service.

“I’m very proud of the team at our 9-1-1 Communications Center for their diligent work on this project,” said Mayor Ed Pawlowski. “Enhancing our public safety service is certainly a great benefit for the citizens, visitors and first responders of the city.”

“I am happy to see that the Text to 9-1-1 services we have deployed are being successfully used by our citizens to request emergency assistance,” said Superintendent of Communication Michael Hilbert. “The inclusion of Text to 9-1-1 service for all major wireless carriers will now allow the majority of our citizens and visitors access to the public safety services of the city of Allentown when they are unable to make a voice call to 9-1-1.”

The Allentown 9-1-1 Center will now be working with the other wireless carriers operating in our area to provide Text to 9-1-1 service to their customers by the end of 2014.

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 text originator 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, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint 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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