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Text to 9-1-1 Now Available in Santa Clara County

If you’re having an emergency in Santa Clara County, you can now text 9-1-1 services. County leaders and emergency personnel announced the availability of Text to 9-1-1 services yesterday, Sept. 25. The moto is “Call if you can. Text if you can’t.”

Text to 9-1-1 is a new option that will help those who are deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired. Also, anyone who might be unsafe if they were to be heard — by an intruder or someone they know — should use the text 9-1-1 service. Text 9-1-1 is now available in the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County and all local jurisdictions, except for Campbell and Los Gatos — these cites are expected to offer the service by the end of 2019. Cities such as Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and others have had the Text to 9-1-1 service for over a year.

“This new service will be critical in emergency situations involving individuals with disabilities,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Cindy Chavez. “In dire circumstances, when every second counts, it’s good to know we’ve now made it a little easier to get help.”

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The County said that Text to 9-1-1 is intended primarily for use in three emergency scenarios:

  • When an individual is deaf, hard-of-hearing or has a speech disability.
  • When someone is in a situation where it is not safe to place a voice call to 9-1-1.
  • When a medical emergency arises that renders the person incapable of speaking.

“Texting to 9-1-1 is an extremely important new feature of the emergency response system in our county,” said Miguel Márquez, County of Santa Clara Chief Operating Officer. “I encourage everyone to take the time to learn how to use it. It can save your life or the life of someone you know.”

“It takes considerable collaboration and partnership among different jurisdictions to implement the Text to 9-1-1 service in so many areas of our county. We all recognize the importance of making this service available,” said Heather Plamondon, County 9-1-1 Communications Director. “In certain situations, texting for help can save lives. We encourage all residents to learn more about when it is appropriate to use this service and how to use it.”

How do you text to 9-1-1? 

  • Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” or “Recipient” field;
  • The first text to 9-1-1 should be short, include the address and the location of the emergency, and ask for police, fire or ambulance;
  • Push the “Send” button;
  • Answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 dispatcher;
  • Text in simple words — no abbreviations or slang;
  • Keep text messages short.

At the County 9-1-1 Communications Department, emergency calls are received through an automated call distribution system that sends calls to the next available dispatcher. The Text to 9-1-1 messages will enter through the automated call system. All County 9-1-1 Communications dispatchers are trained on the Text to 9-1-1 service.

The County operates a consolidated (law, fire and medical) emergency communications center that is staffed by 130 employees, including 80 dispatchers who answer approximately 45,562 calls per month, 62 calls per hour, 1,497 calls in a 24-hour period (491 of them considered urgent or emergency calls), and 546,750 calls per year.

Dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency is still the preferred way to request help, said the County, and the public is reminded to “Call if you can. Text if you can’t.” Texting is not always ideal because it takes longer than a voice call and does not provide the location of the texter. The Text to 9-1-1 function is available in English only. Individuals who do not speak English would need to call 9-1-1, and an interpreter will provide assistance in their language.

The Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) also shared additional information about the Text to 9-1-1 service in a community message. SCPD said to remember that Text to 9-1-1 is not available everywhere and is not always available when roaming and that you must subscribe to your wireless carrier’s text or data plan in order to send or receive text messages. If Text to 9-1-1 is not available in your area, or is temporarily unavailable, you should receive a message indicating that Text to 9-1-1 is not available and to contact 9-1-1 by other means, according to SCPD.

Additionally, SCPD shared some challenges with the Text to 9-1-1 service.

“As with all text messages, Text to 9-1-1 may take longer to receive and respond to than a voice call, does not provide the location of the texter and could be received out of order, or may not be received at all,” said SCPD in the community message.

SCPD also pointed out the text GPS location information is not equal to current wireless location technology. They also said that pictures or videos cannot be received by 9-1-1 at this time and if you include anyone else on your Text to 9-1-1, it may not be received by 9-1-1.

For more information on Text to 9-1-1, visit www.sccgov.org/textto911.

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