New Hanover County implements Text-to-911

Posted December 22, 2014 at 1:01 pm     Category: Emergency Management and 911News Release

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – Beginning today, 911 telecommunicators in New Hanover County can now receive text messages from customers of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.

“Sending a text to emergency telecommunicators – by texting 911 – is ideal for certain emergency situations,” said Warren Lee, Director of New Hanover County Emergency Management and 911 Communications. “The technology creates opportunity for those with hearing or speech impairments and allows people in dangerous situations to call for help without being heard,” Lee added.

To text 911 during an emergency, follow these procedures:

  • Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” field;
  • The first text message to 9-1-1 should be brief and contain the location of the emergency and type of help needed;
  • Push the “Send” button.
  • Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.
  • Text in simple words – do not use abbreviations.
  • Keep text messages brief and concise.

Officials say those contacting 911 through texting should be aware of the following:

  • Customers should text emergency operators only when calling 911 is not an option. It can take longer to receive a text message because someone must enter the text, the message then goes through the system, and the telecommunicator must read the text and then text back. Picking up the phone and calling 9-1-1 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency.
  • Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative since emergency communicators may not be able to access the cell phone location or speak with the person who is sending the text. Text abbreviations or slang should never be used so that the intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible.
  • Customers must be in range of cell towers in New Hanover County. If customers are outside or near the edge of the county, the message may not reach the New Hanover County 911 Center.
  • Texts sent to 911 have the same 160 character limit as other text messages.
  • The texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire, or emergency medical services. Non-emergency issues should still be reported by calling the non-emergency line at (910) 452-6120.

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Release Contact:

Debora Cottle
911 Manager
(910) 798-6139

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Communications and Outreach: 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 195 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-7461 • Fax 910-798-7277