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2015 News

Bucks County Launches Text to 9-1-1 Service

August 25, 2015

New service available when calling 9-1-1 is not possible

The Bucks County Commissioners and the Department of Emergency Communications have announced the availability of a Text to 9-1-1 service for situations when calling 9-1-1 in an emergency is not possible.

Call if you can; text if you can't: Text to 9-1-1In December 2012, an agreement was reached nationally among the four wireless carriers – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon – to provide a nationwide SMS Text to 9-1-1 solution.  Bucks Emergency Communication officials researched options for implementation and signed an agreement with TeleCommunications Systems (TCS) in May, 2015, to add the Text to 9-1-1 capability at no cost to the county. All four major carriers – Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T – are fully deployed. 

Bucks County Department of Emergency Communications 9-1-1 dispatchers currently receive around 2,600 calls every day, and almost two out of three of those calls come from wireless (cell) phones.

“Bucks County Government strives to meet the ever changing needs of the public,” said Commissioner Chairman Robert Loughery. “As the public continues to go mobile, relying on new technology every day, the county must continue to commit to initiatives that follow suit, in this case maximizing our emergency services, specifically our emergency communications, in this growing wireless society.”

The Text to 9-1-1 service is part of a larger nationwide initiative known as Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911). In 1991, Bucks County became one of the first in the state to use the 9-1-1 system, and with the NG911 system, it is once again among the top third of counties in the state to keep up with the growing demands of the communications needs of the public.

The Text to 9-1-1 option provides equal access to emergency services for residents with hearing and speech disabilities.  This new service could be a safe option for those who need to contact 9-1-1 in a domestic violence or crime-related emergency situation.  In the next steps of the continually growing process, Text to 9-1-1 may also help first responders receive information such as photos of crime scenes, videos of medical emergencies and more, as the future of this technology is ever changing for the better.

You must text your location along with the problem on the first text; text to 9-1-1“We are excited for this new era in emergency communications,” stated Audrey Kenny, acting director of Bucks County Emergency Communications. “However, the clear message for this new service needs to be ‘call if you can, text if you can’t.’ The best method is still a phone call unless your options are limited, then you need to do what’s safest.” Text to 9-1-1 calls do take longer to process than voice calls, and the location accuracy is not as precise as voice calls from a wireless phone.

If Text to 9-1-1 is the only option:

  • You must have a data plan to text.
  • Do not use abbreviations.
  • Send the address including municipality in the first message to 9-1-1
  • Answer the questions as quickly and briefly as possible.
  • If the situation changes, and you can make a voice call, let the telecommunicator know.