Text to 911 program now available in central Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It’s a program that has been years in the making, but now officials across central Oklahoma hope that the ability to text while asking for help will eventually save lives. On Monday, the 911 texting program rolled out in Logan, Cleveland, Canadian, and Oklahoma counties. All it takes is plugging in 911 as the recipient of your text message. “9-1-1 member PSAPS, that’s Public Safety Answering Points, are in those four counties and there are 21 of those 911 centers,” said Brent Hawkinson, director of 9-1-1 for the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments. The program went through a rigorous two-week live testing process, and now it’s ready to go. Officials say although the new service is for everyone in those four counties, there are specific people in the community who will benefit massively. “People who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired, people in medical emergencies who are incapable of talking, it’s very important for them as well,” said Hawkinson It also helps those who are in a dangerous situation and need to stay silent or discrete. Officials shared one of their first success stories; a call that came from Edmond on Sunday. “We had our first real run-in with text to 911. The caller took a call for a domestic. The female disconnected and would not answer upon call back,” said Hawkinson. “After a few minutes, a text to 911 came in and the supervisor realized it was the same phone number that had called and disconnected.” That woman was located and a suspect was arrested.
Officials say if you plan to text a 911 dispatcher, the most important information to send first is the address of your emergency. However, the messages do have some limitations. “Texts are limited to our facilities to 160 characters. We do not receive emojis or videos. We do not receive photographs,” said Jamie O’Leary, 911 Communications Director for the Oklahoma City Police Department. Although she says those changes might come in the future. Officials say this is part of the reason it’s still always better to call if you have the opportunity. “A voice call is always preferable to a text. We would like the public to know that you need to call if you can, text if you can’t,” said O’Leary. The texts do not have a translation service. If you do not speak English, officials advise that you first text the location of your emergency.

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