Lake County has integrated texting into its 911 answering system, allowing residents in need of emergency services to reach a first responder when calling is not available, according to a press release from the city of Tavares.
The Lake County Office of Public Safety Support worked with AT&T, Verizon, Spring and T-Mobile networks across the County to make text-to-911 available for all residents in Lake County regardless of their carrier.
Incoming text-to-911 communications are answered from the same machine as voice calls, and like calls, texts can be transferred to the appropriate first responder agency, whether Fire Rescue, EMS or the Sheriff’s Office. Texts can also be transferred to neighboring counties of Marion, Osceola, Seminole, Orange, Sumter and Volusia.
“Having this capability with our neighbors is important, as cell towers do not have jurisdictional boundaries and calls for another agency could potentially come to Lake County and require a transfer,” says Greg Holcomb, Director of the Office of Public Safety Support. “Call 911 if you can, text if you cannot.”
Proven effective throughout the US, text-to-911 is recognized as an excellent resource when cell phones are available but speaking on the phone would put the caller in danger. The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) notes that text-to-911 also allows direct access to 911 for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities. However, residents are reminded to call rather than text whenever possible to ensure that critical information can be relayed in the most efficient way possible.
When texting 911, users are also urged to use plain English, as emojis have the potential to be blocked and short expressions such as OMG for “oh my god” are not always universally understood.
Each 911 telecommunicator is certified by the State of Florida and received at least 232 hours of training that provides residents with a “zero-minute” response time for lifesaving support. To learn more about the new text-to-911 system, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2gwyOonN4M.