The first year of Minnesota’s statewide Text-to-911 system is showing that the service is saving lives and making it easier to contact first responders.
The department of public safety emergency communication networks division (DPS-ECN) reports that dispatchers received more than 4,500 texts since the program’s deployment in December 2017, an average of 375 texts per month.
Text-to-911 provides a direct lifeline for the 20 percent of Minnesotans who have some form of hearing loss. DPS-ECN has worked closely with the Minnesota Commission of Deaf, Deaf-blind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans to educate the public about the service.
“Text-to-911 is an alternative lifeline for people who would put themselves in harm’s way if they called 911,” said Dana Wahlberg, DPS-ECN director, adding it’s also clear that Text-to-911 is a solution to the communication barrier for deaf and hard of hearing Minnesotans who experience an emergency.
Text-to-911 is a valuable alternative for hearing individuals who must remain quiet to stay safe or who can’t speak in an emergency. People have also utilized the service when signal strength was lacking or when their microphones/speakers were inoperable.
The following are examples of how Text-to-911 was used to seek help:
• A suicidal individual did not feel comfortable talking to someone, so they texted for help instead.
• An abducted woman texted 911, leading to her captor’s arrest.
• Children who were fearful of being overhead when calling 911 have texted when their parents were in a verbal or physical conflict.
• A hunter became lost in the woods on a cold night and didn’t have enough signal strength to call 911, but did have enough to text 911.
• A person had difficulty breathing from a panic attack and could not speak, so they texted 911. Text-to-911 should only be used in emergencies and when speaking is not an option.
“Dispatchers report receiving texts for non-emergencies or in situations where it would be preferable to speak to 911,” said Wahlberg. “Text-to-911 users should be ready to answer follow-up questions promptly as delayed replies will also delay response times.”
Remember, call if you can, text if you can’t.
Be sure to provide an accurate location, cross street or well-known landmark in your initial text. Dispatchers cannot send help if they don’t know where you are. Texting 911 with a false report is a crime.
If you accidentally send a text to 911, send another text, or call 911 to let the dispatcher know that there is no emergency.
If there is an emergency and you cannot call 911, take these steps:
• Enter the numbers 911 in the “To” field.
• Text your exact address and type of emergency.
• Send the message.
• Use simple words, but do not include abbreviations, emojis, pictures or slang.
• Promptly answer the questions being asked and follow instructions.
Learn more online at www.dps.mn.gov.
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