Possible to text 911 in an emergency, but in most cases it’s better to call

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RBC | What happens if you have an emergency but you’re hearing impaired, have a speech disability, or the situation could get worse if you make noise? In most areas of Rio Blanco County emergency victims now have the option to text to 911. Certainly a sign of progress, but there are major caveats to the service as it stands now.
Testing has been completed and in most areas of Rio Blanco County, residents and visitors that have Verizon, Union, AT&T or Comcast should be able to send text messages to 911, other providers who do not actually own cell towers in Rio Blanco County are not required by the FCC to provide this service. Callers who place a Text to 911 and do not have a carrier that provides the service or if the service is not available will receive a bounce back message which will refer them to call 911. Only consumers who have purchased a text or data plan through their wireless provider can send text messages and text message rates will apply. The 911 call centers at the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office and Rangely Police Department are ready to accept emergency text messages from the public when a caller may be injured and unable to speak, may be in a remote area or are only able to send a text message to get assistance from emergency services. Only two percent of all 911 dispatch centers across the nation are capable of receiving a text to 911 message. Rio Blanco County is proud to join this 2 percent to open this communication path to our citizens, our visitors and our community.
“Even where text-to-911 is available, if you are able to make a voice call to 911, and if it is safe to do so, you should always make a voice call to 911 instead,” according to the FCC. “Voice calls allow the 911 operator to more quickly ask questions and obtain information from the caller, while two-way communication by text can take more time and is subject to limits on the length of text messages.”
Text-to-911 also changes the immediate information the dispatch center receives. With phone calls the dispatcher immediately has your location and phone number, when calling from a land line. With a text message, that information is not immediately available so texters have to give an address of where they are located as quickly as possible. In addition, phone calls allow for more qualitative information about the caller, including background noises, the tone and urgency in a caller’s voice.
That being said, this service provides major benefits for those who are hard of hearing, have a speech disability or are in an emergency situation in which making noise could exacerbate danger.
Currently photos and videos cannot be texted to 911. Call 970-878-9600 for more information.
To text 911 follow these steps:
n Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” field.
n The first text message to 911 should be brief and contain the location of the emergency and type of help needed.
n Push the send button.
n Be prepared to answer questions and follow instruction from the 911 call taker.
n Text in simple words—do not use abbreviations.
n Keep text messages brief and concise.