Mercer County residents will be the first in the northwest Ohio county and ninth in the state to be able to text emergencies to 9-1-1.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said Thursday residents who have Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile as cell phone providers will be able to use this feature starting April 2.
In certain situations listed below, it is best to text to 9-1-1:
• When calling 9-1-1 is not possible, such as if the caller is deaf, hearing or speech impaired.
• If the caller is otherwise unable to speak, because of a medical condition (i.e. stroke)
• If speaking on the phone would be unsafe such as in the case of abduction or home invasion.
Here are some other tips to keep in mind when texting to 9-1-1:
• Customers should use the texting option only when calling 9-1-1 is not an option
• Using a phone to call 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. It may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency service in a text to 9-1-1 situation because of time involved it takes someone to enter the text, the message must go over the network and the 9-1-1 dispatcher must read the text and then text back.
• Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the 9-1-1 text message is imperative since Mercer County Central Dispatch will receive only an approximate location of the cell phone and will not be able to speak with the person sending the text. Text abbreviations or slang should never be used in order that the intent of the two way dialogue is as clear as possible.
• Text to 9-1-1 customers must be within range of cellular towers located in Mercer County. If customers are outside of Mercer County or near the county boarders, the message may not reach Mercer County Central Dispatch. If the caller links to a cellular tower that does not support text to 9-1-1 service, the caller should receive an automated message indicating this with instructions to call 9-1-1 instead.
• Text sent to 9-1-1 have a 160 character limit for each message.
• Customers must have a mobile phone capable of sending text messages and have subscribed to a texting service with the carrier.
• Text to 9-1-1 service is available to customers who use a SMS service provided by a cellular provider. Text to 9-1-1 service is not available through third party text messaging applications that can be downloaded to the phone or for applications that do not use SMS technology.
• Text to 9-1-1 should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from law enforcement, fire or emergency medical services. Non-emergency complaints or issues should still be communicated to Central Dispatch through the non-emergency phone lines.
• Text to 9-1-1 SMS messaging should only be to communicate between the 9-1-1 dispatcher and the texter; no pictures, videos, other attachments or other recipients should be appended to the message.
• Callers should never text 9-1-1 while driving.