Call If You Can, Text If You Can’t: City of Alexandria Upgrades 9-1-1 Service to Accept Text Messages

SOURCE: Alexandria City

Theo nguồn tin trên trang mạng thành phố Alexandria trong tiểu bang Virginia

For Immediate Release: March 30, 2016

The City of Alexandria has upgraded its 9-1-1 emergency service to accept text messages in addition to voice or TTY calls. Anyone in need of immediate police, fire, or emergency medical assistance may call or text 9-1-1 from any landline, mobile phone, or TTY device. Text messages may be preferable for persons who are not able to hear or speak due to a disability or an emergency, or for persons who feel that making a voice call may put them in danger. If may also be possible to send a text message when cellular signal strength is insufficient to complete a voice call.

No matter how 9-1-1 is contacted, always try to provide the location where help is needed, the nature of the emergency, whether the event is still active, who is involved, and whether there are any weapons present. Since text and TTY messages do not provide automatic location information to dispatchers or the same degree of real-time dialogue, persons in need of assistance should always place a voice call to 9-1-1 when possible. If a text message is sent, the sender should provide the exact street address or other location, and be prepared to answer followup questions from dispatchers.

“Our goal is to connect callers with emergency resources as quickly as possible,” said Director of Emergency Communications Renee Gordon. “The ability to text 9-1-1 provides an additional options for anyone who needs help and may not be able to place a voice call. We are asking callers to ‘Call if you can, text if you can’t.’”

Officials stress the following additional considerations for texting to 9-1-1 in Alexandria versus placing a voice call:

Calls and texts from cellular devices are routed to the appropriate dispatch centers based on data from phone towers. In dense urban areas, calls are sometimes misrouted. When a dispatcher receives a voice call intended for a neighboring city or county, the call can be transferred to the correct dispatch center. However, text messages cannot be reliably transferred yet. If a text call is misrouted, the sender will be asked to place a voice call so that the transfer can be completed.
The ability to text to 9-1-1 is supported by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, and is supported by the Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax County 9-1-1 centers, but may not be supported by all carriers or 9-1-1 centers in the region. If a text message cannot be processed, the sender will receive an automatic message with instructions to place a voice call.
Dispatchers cannot currently receive photos, videos, or other Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) messages.
If abbreviations in text messages are necessary, they should be limited to very common phrases to ensure they will be understood. Senders should read typed messages carefully before sending to ensure they have not been changed by auto-correct functions.
Dispatchers are currently limited to reading and replying to text messages in English. If assistance in any other language is needed, a voice call should be placed and dispatchers can immediately connect the call to a translator if necessary.
When a dispatcher believes a text exchange has been completed, the sender will receive an automatic text message with instructions to initiate a new text message or place a voice call if addition assistance is needed.
Anyone who believes immediate police, fire, or medical assistance is needed should not hesitate to call or text 9-1-1, but falsely summoning help is illegal.
The ability to receive text messages follows other recent upgrades to the City’s 9-1-1 capabilities, including a more efficient computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system, and automatic vehicle location (AVL) tracking for police vehicles, fire trucks, and ambulances.

For media inquiries, contact Craig Fifer, Director of Communications & Public Information, at or 703.746.3965.

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