Texting the 911 number during an emergency is now an option for several metro Atlanta residents.
Last week Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Dunwoody, and Brookhaven announced new texting programs for the 911 emergency service. The new feature is aimed at making communication easier for those with hearing and speech disabilities or for emergency situations where a voice call is not an option.
At this time the system that manages incoming text messages is unable to receive photos or video. Once a 911 message is received the sender will receive an automated reply saying, “If it is safe to do so, please call 9-1-1.”
Unlike traditional voice calls, officials are unable to automatically see a location when contacted by text message. Text messengers are asked to quickly and accurately give their address or location.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, cell phone providers must allow text messages to be sent to 911 at no cost.
Earlier this year, a deaf woman in Alpharetta alerted authorities via text message of two children locked in a car. Her text message was met with a quick reply and the police arrived to help the kids out of the vehicle.
While convenient and often effective, the service has also been abused. A high school student in Marietta sent a text to 911 falsely reporting a shooter at her school. When police arrived and discovered there was no shooter, the 17-year-old student was arrested.
Text to 911 is supported by all cell phone service providers, but the majority of Georgia cities do not have the service available.