New service allows text messages to 911

| 15 Sep 2016 | 06:56

— If you can't call for help, send a text.
A new text-to-911 service allows Orange County residents to send a short text message to 911 for emergency help when unable to make a phone call. A medical emergency may leave a person unable to speak. A caller may be voice- or hearing-impaired. Talking out loud may put a caller in danger, such as in an active shooter situation, home invasion, abduction, or domestic violence incident.
"Text messaging to 911 can be especially helpful when someone is in distress and doesn’t have the ability to talk on the phone," said Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus at a press conference held Tuesday at the County’s Emergency Services Center. He was joined by Sheriff Carl E. DuBois, Commissioner of Emergency Services Brendan Casey, Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Services Craig Cherry, and Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Communications Allen Wierzbicki.
“The county is very proactive about public safety and we look forward to using this important technology for 911 calls,” Neuhaus said. “This service can make the difference in saving a life and will help our 911 dispatchers, who do a wonderful job every day."
When residents send a text message to Orange County’s 911 Center, a special sound alerts the dispatcher that it has arrived and it will appear on their computer screen. Residents will be instructed to enter 911 into field and type a message with complete words and an address. As with 911 calls, users should be as detailed as possible, Wierzbicki said.
All major cellular phone carriers — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — have completed integration with Orange County’s 911 system to provide the free service. Casey stressed that text-to-911 does not replace calling 911 during an emergency.
“Text-to-911 is for everybody, but will be particularly useful to our citizens who are hearing- or speech-impaired,” Casey said. “This will be a great way for those individuals to communicate with the authorities when they are in need of assistance and will enhance our ability to respond to calls for help in a variety of situations. Call when you can, text when you can’t.”
DuBois said the new feature "will give residents and visitors another option to reach us. In some situations, it might save lives.”
For more information about residents can contact their cell phone provider; visit the FCC website at, or