The City of Allentown, in partnership with Telecommunications Systems Inc. (TSC), is slated to become one of less than a hundred 9-1-1 Centers in the country to provide an interim solution for short message service (SMS) text messages to 9-1-1 for emergency help when a person is unable to make a call.
Mayor Pawlowski expressed his excitement about the groundbreaking project, stating, “I’m very happy to be able to provide this service in the city. Technology is always improving. I’m pleased that we are just the fourth center in the Commonwealth to be able to provide this option.” Mayor Pawlowski tested the service himself by sending a test text message to the 9-1-1 Center during a recent news conference in City Council Chambers.
The four major U.S. wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint) have voluntarily committed to make Text-to-9-1-1 service available on May 15, 2014 in all areas served by their respective networks where local PSAPs have the technical capabilities to receive texts.
Superintendent of Communication Mike Hilbert also expressed his pride at the new system: “The Text to 9-1-1 solution we have implemented is the beginning steps of Next Generation 9-1-1 services for the City of Allentown. The staff of the Allentown 9-1-1 Center is proud and excited to provide our visitors and citizens the ability to Text to 9-1-1 when making a voice call is not an option.”
Text to 9-1-1 is intended primarily for use in these emergency scenarios:
- For an individual who is speech or hearing impaired and…
- For a person who is unable to make a voice call, for example during a medical emergency that renders the person incapable of speech, or in the instance of a home invasion, domestic violence, or abduction.
- Customers should use the texting option only when calling 9-1-1 is NOT an option. Using the phone to call 9-1-1 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help, as texting is not always instantaneous.
There are also texting guidelines that should be followed:
- Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since the Allentown Communications Center will receive only an approximate location of the cell phone, and will not be able to speak with the person sending the text.
- Text messages sent to 9-1-1 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.
- SMS-9-1-1 should only be used to communicate between emergency help and the texter with no pictures, video, other attachments or other recipients appended to the message.
- Text abbreviations or slang should never be used so that the intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible.
- Customers must be in range of cell towers in the Allentown area. If customers are outside or near the edge of the county, the message may not reach the Allentown Communications Center. In these cases, the customer will receive a ‘Bounce Back’ message advising them to make a voice call to 9-1-1.
- Wireless phone customers must have mobile phones that are capable of sending text messages.
- The texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire or emergency medical services.
- Non-emergency issues should still be communicated to the Allentown Communications Center through its non-emergency line at (610) 437-7751.