A recent rollout of new technology throughout L.A. County that allows people to contact 9-1-1 emergency services via text message is now available in Pasadena, although still in early stages of operation.
The new system, called Text-to-911 is a new means designed to better accommodate the hearing and speech impaired, the deaf or hard of hearing population, and people in dangerous situations where dialing 9-1-1 over the phone is not an option.
Pasadena implemented a soft start to the program back in June 2017 and as of December 1, 2017, most Los Angeles County dispatch centers are now equipped to receive and respond to mobile phone SMS Text to 9-1-1, according to a public safety committee agenda report.
The system is not designed to replace the preferred method of voice calling in cases of emergencies, according to a statement by the Glendale Police Department in an L.A. Times article, which is a neighboring city that also has the ability to receive emergency text messages.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says you should always make a voice call to contact 911 during an emergency whenever possible due to the fact that Text-to-911 is currently only available in certain locations.
Text-to-911 messages are first received by call centers throughout the county, in which the FCC Text-to-911 master registry identifies the the California Office of Emergency Services, State 911 Branch as the call center for the Pasadena Police Department.
The FCC also notes that it encourages emergency call centers to begin accepting texts as text providers develop text-to-911 capability, but it is up to each call center to decide the particular method in which to implement and deploy text-to-911 technology.
Pasadena Police dispatch statistics show that 118 text session have been initiated by users in the city since June.
Of those calls, a total of four resulted in police responses, five lead to police responses by way of transfer to other agencies, and the remainder are shown to be products of misdials and test calls.
The technology may not work everywhere for and for every mobile user, according to the report.
The report lists the Text-to-911 guidelines:
If you can, always contact 9-1-1 by making a voice call, “Call if you can – text if you can’t.“
Location accuracy varies by carrier and should not be relied upon. Be prepared to give your location.
Text to 9-1-1 service will not be available if the wireless carrier cannot ascertain a location of the device sending the message.
A text or data plan is required to place a text to 9-1-1.
Photos and videos cannot be sent to 9-1-1. They cannot be received at the 9-1-1 center at this time.
Text messages should be sent in plain language and not contain popular abbreviations (SMH, LOL, ICYMI) or emojis, which will not be recognized. 5 Police Department Text to 9-1-1 Guidelines • Text to 9-1-1 is not available if you are roaming.
Text to 9-1-1 cannot be sent to more than one person. Do not send your emergency text to anyone other than 9-1-1.
Texts must be in English only. There currently is no language interpretation for text available. This is still in development.