CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – If you have an emergency in Clay County, there's a new option for reaching 911 operators: a text message.
Clay County has worked for 18 months to prepare for the new technology, which is available from the four largest wireless companies: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.
Text-to-911 is the ability to send a text message to reach 911 emergency call-takers from your mobile phone. Text-to-911 is currently only available in certain regions where 911 call centers elect to accept emergency text messages from the public. Clay County is now one of those areas.
The Clay County Sheriff's Office said it wants to educate residents about the new option.
Deputies said a voice call is still preferred because text message delivery is delayed by a minimum of 45 to 60 seconds. In an emergency, every second counts, they said.
The deputies' main message is "call if you can, text if you can't."
Calls received via SMS messaging (text) will be displayed in the Communications Center using an existing TTY (teletypewriter) system routinely used for communication with deaf residents. Even though text-to-911 is available, if a citizen is able to safely make a voice call, they should do that instead of texting.
In dire circumstances when texting is the only option, here are some guidelines:
- Use plain language, avoid texting lingo
- 911 operators will only use common abbreviations like St for Street, Rd for Road, Hwy for Highway, EMS for Emergency Medical Services, FL for Florida and US for United States
- Don't send photos or video by text, the system can't receive them
- 911 operators will dispatch police response as needed or transfer information to Clay County Fire Rescue in the case of medical emergencies
- TTY system will send a delivery failure message if a text doesn't go through
For general information about this new service visit http://www.fcc.gov/guides/text-911-quick-facts-faqs.