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Posted on: May 1, 2018

San Marcos Residents Can Text Emergency Info to 9-1-1

With storm season in full swing, the City of San Marcos is reminding residents that in an emergency they can send text messages to 9-1-1 in the Central Texas area.

The Capital Area Council of Governments deployed Text to 9-1-1 service region wide in October of 2017 after successfully testing that the region’s 31 public safety answering points (PSAPs), or 9-1-1 call centers, can reliably receive and respond to SMS text messages. The service is activated on the four major cellphone service providers —Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, Sprint, and T-Mobile — in Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis and Williamson counties.

A full Q&A about text to 9-1-1 is available at capcog.org/text911.

Text to 9-1-1 is the ability to send a cellphone text message to a local 9-1-1 call center. It is especially beneficial to those who are hard of hearing, deaf, or speech-impaired, but residents should only text 9-1-1 when calling 9-1-1 is unsafe or not possible.

Examples of when texting 9-1-1 would be beneficial include:

  • The caller cannot speak due to a threat, illness or medical condition
  • The caller has poor reception and can only send text messages
  • Phone lines and cell towers are overwhelmed and only texts can successfully send

Cellphone service providers only offer text messaging as a “best effort service” meaning providers do not guarantee a message will be delivered, and text messages may take longer to receive or may be delivered out of order. The only way to know a text reached a 9-1-1 call center is when the center texts back. If the sender thinks a text was not received, he or she should call 9-1-1. Call centers also don’t automatically receive a cellphone user’s location information when texting 9-1-1.

Text to 9-1-1 is available only in English. However, 9-1-1 voice calls can be processed in multiple languages, because all CAPCOG 9-1-1 call centers provide emergency interpretive services. Text to 9-1-1 does not work if the sender texts using group messages, emojis, pictures or videos. Apps that text other app users (such as WhatsApp) or texting via social media (such as Facebook Messenger) do not support Text to 9-1-1.

Here are a few additional things to remember about how to text to 9-1-1:

  1. Call if you can, text if you can’t.
  2. Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” field.
  3. The first text message should be brief and contain the location of the emergency and type of help needed.
  4. Push the send button.
  5. Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.
  6. Text in English and in simple words – do not use abbreviations.
  7. Keep text messages brief and concise.
  8. Once you have initiated a Text to 9-1-1 conversation, do not turn off your phone until the dispatcher tells you it is ok to do so.

CAPCOG also developed two video public service announcements which can be viewed at capcog.org/text911

For more information, contact Gregg Obuch, CAPCOG Emergency Communications Director, at 512.916.6044 or gobuch@capcog.org.

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