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Texting 911 in Franklin County: What to Know

With the ability to text 911, Franklin County residents can call upon emergency services in situations where they can’t talk. (Flickr).

As of January 23, Franklin County residents have the ability to text 911 in the case of an emergency. The system has been in the works for years, and its implementation has massive implications for our community.

There are a few important caveats about the system before texting becomes a go-to in emergency situations. First, 911 dispatchers still prefer a call because it hastens communication and allows for better responses in most situations. Photos, videos, and emoji cannot be sent, and operators highly discourage abbreviations. The text should be purposeful and impossible to misconstrue. Finally, you cannot include 911 in a group message.

Despite these limitations, the system provides immense power for people in emergency situations. In the best of scenarios, victims of domestic violence can have police diffuse a situation without having an abuser overhear the call.

In addition, the technology is helpful in other emergency situations that require a victim to remain silent. Home break-ins and mass shootings can be reported to the police without giving an attacker an inkling of where a victim is. This addresses problems found in many situations of mass violence: people trying to remain as quiet as possible while calling a 911 dispatcher are often hung up on because they can’t communicate properly. Now they can voice what is happening around them.

The implementation of texting also benefits the hard of hearing and deaf communities, who can communicate with emergency services more easily. Previously, those who could not call 911 had to use an intermediary telecommunications relay service. Now contacts can be made directly.

One major downfall of the service as of now is that it has not been fully implemented around the country. In central Ohio, both Franklin and Delaware Counties have the service available, but other parts of the region do not. In an area whose 911 office does not support texting, people who try to text 911 will receive a bounce-back message confirming that they should contact 911 via another method. This will also happen in areas with poor cell connection, regardless of whether the service is supported.

As this technology improves, it will revolutionize the way we report emergency situations, which a great first step.

Please remember to still call 911 when able, a only contact emergency services in the case of an emergency.

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August 18, 2019