KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
August 24, 2019
By Natalie Cook Clark
First responders and 9-1-1 operators can now accept text messages if someone is unable to call. Authorities advise that calling is still best but texting gives residents another option. Texts go to an emergency services dispatcher and are treated as calls to 9-1-1.
Photo credit: FBCSO
"Call if you can, text if you can't."
9-1-1 now accepts text messages. The service's new slogan is "Call if you can, text if you can't." This change provides residents another way to seek help in an emergency situation. Dispatchers receive the 9-1-1 texts just as if a resident called.
When 9-1-1 dispatchers receive a call, they can ask questions that help them notify the best services to meet the emergency. While texting is now available, first responders still recommend calling if possible, to get help in an emergency.
Texts Treated As Emergency Calls
"Texting is not a means to report non-emergency events just because you don't want to call," says Major Chad Norvell with the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office.
Texts will be treated with the same urgency as calls. Making a false report of a crime or an emergency distracts dispatchers from accurately responding to other and actual emergencies. False reports will be treated as a crime.
Dispatchers are Now First Responders
The Texas government just modified the definition of "first responder" to include 9-1-1 operators and dispatchers.
"This is something we’ve always known," says the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office. "911 Operators and Dispatchers are the TRUE first responder. They provide CPR instructions, help deliver babies and sometimes hear a suicide. They have a thankless and often unrecognized job. We treasure ours and thank the Legislature for officially recognizing them for what they are."
When to Call
It is important to know how and when to call (or text) 9-1-1.
There is a fire.
Someone is passed out.
Someone is suddenly sick and struggling to speak or breath.
Someone is choking.
You witness a crime such as a break-in.
You are in or witness a serious accident.
Keep phones accessible. Many residences have now moved away from landlines and only use cell phones. Password-protected cell phones still have options for calling for help. Different cell phone models and emergency service apps have different ways to notify help. Cell phone users should definitely learn the best way to use their phone to alert first responders.
Take the Kids for a Visit
Understanding 9-1-1 and how to reach an operator is an important family discussion. To learn more about the operators, Texas' newly named "first responders," schedule a visit.
"Want your kids to see something cool? For cookies or brownies they’ll give them a great tour," says the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office. "It’s great for kids to see where 9-1-1 is actually answered."
For questions and to set up a visit call the Fort Bend County Sheriff's office at 281-341-4665.
For more information about 9-1-1 services, visit the official government website.