Text-to-911 Emergency Service available in Powell County

Powell County Sheriff Gavin Roselles announced that citizens with cellular phone subscriptions may now send a short message service (SMS) text message to 911 for emergency help when unable to make a 911 voice call. Text-to-911 presently works on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon cell phones. Powell County joined 36 other Public Safety Answering Points with Text to 911 capabilities including all surrounding counties.

Text-to-911 is not intended as a replacement to 911 voice calls in emergency situations. Rather, it serves as an alternative when calling is implausible: The caller is hearing/voice impaired; a medical emergency renders the person incapable of speech; when speaking out loud puts the caller in danger such as a home invasion, domestic violence incident or active shooter scenario; and when on the edge of the cellular network where there might not be voice coverage, but text can get through. In an emergency, all wireless callers should remember to “Call 911 if you can. Text 911 if you can’t.”

To send a text message to 911, a cellular subscriber types “911” into the “To:” or “Recipient:” field on a “New Message.” In the text message, the most important element is the location. Be as specific as possible, stating the address, town and county. Also, describe the nature of your emergency. 911 dispatchers will respond with relevant text messages.

Powell County citizens should keep the following important information in mind if they send a text-to-911:

• Call 911 if you can. Text 911 if you can’t.

• Using a phone to call 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous.

• Providing detailed and exact location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative. Powell County 911 will initially only receive the location of the cell phone tower closest to the call’s origin.

• Text abbreviations, emoticons or slang should never be used. Dialogue must be as clear as possible.

• Customers must be in range of cell towers in Powell County otherwise the message may not reach Powell County 911.

• Texts to 911 from areas where the service is not available will receive a “bounce back” message.

• Texts sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages

• Wireless customers who use Usage Controls should remove this feature to ensure full Text-to-911 capabilities.

• The texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire or emergency medical services.  For non-emergency situations, call Powell County at 406-846-2711.

• The caller must have an active data plan for Text-to-911 to work.

• Do not joke around. If you text to 911, responders will be dispatched.

• Text-to-911 should only be used to communicate between emergency help and the texter. No pictures, video, other attachments or other recipients can be appended to the message.


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