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Cellphone users now able to text 911

Updated: 05/20/2014 11:18 PM
Created: 05/20/2014 10:21 PM WHEC.com

In an emergency, every second counts, and sometimes making a phone call to 911 isn’t an option.

That’s why the nation’s four largest wireless carriers are now letting users text to 911. Customers that have Verizon, Sprint, AT&T or T-Mobile are already able to use the service, and all other carriers will be online by the end of the year.

Most 911 centers, like the ones in Rochester, can only receive words, not pictures or videos. Users also need to be specific about their location.

Emergency workers still prefer a call, but this new system could be life saving for people who need help but aren’t able to use the phone.


“Perhaps you’re hearing impaired,” said Stephen Cusenz, Deputy Director for Monroe County 911 Emergency Communications, “This just allows us to speak to the person who needs help much more easily and much more directly.”


Chris Fenn and Jonathan Pons are hearing impaired students at RIT who say the new technology is a safer method.


“If I called 911, I may have some concerns about not being able to understand the 911 dispatcher. I prefer to text rather than call because it is safer for me. That way if I misunderstood something, texting would be clearer,” said Fenn.


“It is really important we have the alternate option to text because when you text it is easier to communicate with the 911 community center,” said Pons.


News10NBC reached out to Alternatives for Battered Women, and they responded with the following statement:


“This technology gives survivors a chance to seek help without their abuser overhearing their call to the police. Yet, like all technology, it poses a risk to the survivor if their abuser is monitoring their phone calls and texts.”


“Certainly we want people to remain safe,” said Cusenz, “so people are able to communicate with us via text messaging and we are able to get information in other situations we might not normally be able to.”


Texting to 911 could also be useful in situations like a shooting in a mall or a home break-in where people are hiding, need police assistance, but don’t want the suspect to find them.





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