Emergency Text 911 Launched

May 19, 2016


Call If You Can, Text if You Can’t

Effective immediately, a new service in North Idaho is available for those who cannot safely call 911 in an emergency, or for those individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability.

Bonner County, Shoshone County, Kootenai County, and Post Falls Police 911 dispatch centers have completed testing and are now prepared to receive 911 text messages from customers with text or data plans from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Comcast. Text to 911 is not available if you are roaming and connected to a different cellular service provider. If the service is not available in your area, or is temporarily unavailable, you may receive a message indicating that and to contact 911 by other means. Please do not send a test message to 911. Contact your service provider directly to confirm the ability to text 911.

Dialing 911 in an emergency is still the preferred way to request help, and the public is being reminded to Call if you can, text if you can’t. Time is critical in a life-threatening emergency, and customers should be aware of the differences between calling and texting 911.

For most people, sending a text to 911 will not replace making a call. A 911 text may take longer than a voice call because someone must enter the text, send it through the system, and then the 911 call taker has to enter a text response and send it back. And just like regular text messages, 911 texts can take longer to receive, get out of order, or may not be received.

Location information with a text is not equal to calling 911 at this time. As is the case with calling 911, customers should only text 911 for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire, or emergency medical services.

When to text 911:
• Deaf, hard of hearing callers or individuals with a speech disability.
• The caller is unable to speak due to a medical issue or other condition.
• When speaking out loud would put the caller in danger such as a home invasion, an abduction, a domestic violence incident or an active-shooter scenario.
• Do not text and drive!

How to text 911:
• Enter the numbers 911 in the ‘To’ field.
• In the message field, type your exact location and a BRIEF description of the help you need. Use simple words. Do not use abbreviations or shorthand.
• Push the ‘Send’ button.
• Be prepared to answer the 911 call taker’s questions.
• Group texts, photos, and video cannot be sent to 911 at this time.

Tips on texting 911 in an emergency:
• Provide clear information about your location and the type of help needed in the first text message sent to 911. Emergency personnel cannot always determine your location.
• Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 call taker. Stay on the line until the dispatcher ends the dialog, if it is safe to do so.
• Text in simple words – do not use abbreviations, emoticons, or emoji.
• Keep text messages brief and concise.
• Silence your phone if you don’t want to be heard.

For more information about Text 911 service and technology, contact Bonner County Sheriff’s Office – Sheriff Daryl Wheeler 208-263-8417x 3049, Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office – Lieutenant Matt Street 208-446-1850, Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office – Captain Holly Lindsay 208-556-1114, or Post Falls Police Department – Communications Director Charlene Holbrook 208-777-2242.


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