Centre County 911 Introduces Emergency Texting Service

Everyone knows that in an emergency, you call 911. But now, Centre County 911 has launched an emergency texting service that offers the ability to, “call if you can, text if you can’t,” according to WJAC.

To use the text system, those seeking emergency assistance type “911” as the phone number in the “To” field (where you would type a 10-digit number or contact name if you were sending a regular text). In the body of the message, you type your emergency and location. Centre County 911 dispatchers will receive the message on a screen in their call center, though it takes some time. Customers of all major cellphone service providers have the capability to utilize this system, but the service does not recognize pictures, videos, abbreviations, or slang.

Though the system is a secondary option, designed for people who are deaf or have difficulty speaking, it also allows individuals who perhaps cannot talk due to the nature of their current emergency the ability to reach out to emergency officials and the 911 service in Centre County. While this service offers a great alternative if a 911 voice call is not an option, officials stressed that the texting system is in now way designed to replace a phone call, and if you are capable, you need to call.

“It’s easier for us to handle a voice call than it is a text,” 911 Assistance Director Norm Spackman said to WJAC. “If there is a home football game (with) a lot of cell activity (and) a lot of texting, a text doesn’t get priority.”

Additionally, it is far easier for 911 dispatchers to get information from a phone call, as they are actively able to ask questions, track your location, and get a gauge on the situation.

“We can gain additional information easily with a voice call,” Spackman added.

The Text 911 system is currently available in Centre County as well as 20 other Pennsylvania counties. It is intended that the system will be available throughout America in the future.

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Lexi Shimkonis

Lexi is an editor-turned-staff writer who can often be found at either Irving's or the Phyrst (with the chances she'll have her backpack being the same). Lexi is a senior hailing from Spring City, PA (kind of) and studying Civil Engineering. Please email questions and/or pleas for an Instagram caption to [email protected], or for a more intimate bond, follow her on Twitter @lexshimko.


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