AURORA, Colo. — Aurora’s 911 dispatchers can now receive and respond to requests for help sent by text message.
The text-to-911 service offers an alternative for people who are in a situation when a voice call might increase their danger, who have limited cellphone reception or who are hearing impaired.
Testing with Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile was finished in early June. Most cellphone companies rely on the networks operated by the four providers mentioned.
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Dispatchers have also undergone training about how to handle and respond to 911 text messages.
“Phone calls to 911 are still the easiest way to alert police and fire about emergency situations and provide the fastest response and communication,” said Diane Culverhouse, director of Aurora’s Public Safety Communications Department.
“However, we know that in some cases, a phone call may not be possible or be the safest option, so Text-to-911 offers an alternative way to reach out for help when it’s needed most.”
The city of Aurora provided tips for users:
- Provide address or specific location and description of the emergency in initial text message.
- Photos and videos are not supported.
- Messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger that utilize data networks are not supported, only text messages sent using cellular networks.
- Dispatchers will reply to text messages using their phone system.
- If text-to-911 service is not available (using tower outside a jurisdiction that does not support text-to-911, using a roaming cellular network, etc.), the user should receive a bounce-back text indicating an error.
- Unlike phone calls to 911 using mobile phones, text-to-911 requires the phone to be on a service contract with a cellular provider.
- Text-to-911 should be treated the same as phone calls to 911 and reserved for emergencies and urgent matters, not for non-emergency questions or tips. All other public safety communication should be made via phone call to non-emergency dispatch at 303-627-3100.