Sheriff’s Department offers emergency texting

Tulare County residents can text 911 instead of calling if they are unable to speak or if doing so might put them in danger

TULARE COUNTY – There are many situations where you may have to dial 911, but not every call for help can be done aloud. In those situations, wireless customers in Tulare County can now text for help when they are unable to call.

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office launched its new 911 texting system on Dec. 10, allowing Tulare County residents to text 911 instead of calling, if they are unable to do so in the case of an emergency. The Sheriff’s Office has been working with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon networks to ensure that the new 911 texting system is available to all county residents, regardless of their mobile carrier.

Incoming 911 texts will be answered in the same way 911 calls are currently answered, and will immediately be transferred to the most appropriate first responder agency.

“This new 911 texting system is another tool in our tool belt, allowing us to reach our residents in need as quickly as possible,” Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said. “Depending on the emergency, someone might not be able to make a phone call to first responders. This texting option could be potentially life-saving, and we are proud to be able to provide this resource to our residents.”

When texting to 911, callers are also asked to use plain English, as an emoji could be blocked and short expressions, such as OMG for “oh my God,” are not always universally understood. When texting 911, make sure to include your location and your emergency or need in the initial text. This will allow for the Emergency Dispatcher to get the right help to you faster. However, if an individual is able to call 911 instead of texting, that method is still strongly preferred and encouraged by law enforcement.

The Visalia Police and Fire departments were the first to launch a text 911 program in April 2019. Text to 9-1-1 was not developed as a replacement to calling 9-1-1 in an emergency situation. Instead, it was developed as an enhancement to reaching 9-1-1 services in three specific situations: 1. The caller is hearing/voice impaired; 2. A medical emergency renders the person incapable of speech; or 3. When speaking out loud would put the caller in danger, such as a home invasion, an abduction, a domestic violence incident, or an active shooter scenario.

Proven effective throughout the U.S., this 911 texting system is an excellent resource to have when cell phones are available, but speaking on the phone is not an option or could put the caller in danger. The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) notes that text-to-911 is an added resource for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities. However, residents are reminded to call, rather than text, whenever possible to ensure that critical information can be relayed in the most efficient way possible.

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