SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – People in Orange County are now able to text their emergencies to 911 using a cell phone.
The new text-to-911 service launched Wednesday across all of O.C. It is designed specifically for those who are hearing impaired, speech disabled, or in dangerous situations where calling 911 is not possible.
“Beginning today, every public safety agency in Orange County will and can accept text-to-911 via cell systems,” O.C. Sheriff Don Barnes said at a news conference Wednesday morning.
The same service launched in several parts of Los Angeles County in December of 2017.
To use the service, people should enter “911” in the destination field of their texting platform, followed by their location and a brief description of their emergency. While dispatchers will receive a geolocation from the caller’s cell phone in longitude and latitude, they will not have an exact address.
“This information is crucial to get you the help you need, as GPS location accuracy varies by carrier and should not be relied upon,” Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel said. “Also, messages should be sent in plain language, please do not use acronyms, short code messages or emojis.”
You cannot include videos or photos in your 911 text, and you cannot include 911 in a group text.
“If you’re texting to family members about an emergency and also 911, it will not work,” Barnes said.
The service is at this time only available in English.
When you send the text, your geolocation is used to deliver the message to the nearest dispatch center. If the service is not available where you are, the Federal Communications Commission requires that cell phone providers send you a bounce-back message advising you to voice call 911 or use a telecommunications relay service.
Officials Wednesday reiterated that people should always voice call 911 over sending a text if possible.
“Remember, call 911 if you can, text 911 if you can’t,” Hamel said.
Barnes said the cost of the technology was free through California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. The county has spent the past four months preparing for the launch.