A new text option is available in Santa Barbara County for those who are in need of emergency services but are unable to dial 9-1-1.
All emergency service responders in the county are now equipped to receive and respond to mobile phone SMS Text-to-9-1-1 messages.
The slogan developed for the program is "Call if you can -- text if you can't."
Officials say the service is available for use by the deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech impaired. It is also useful in situations where it is too dangerous to make a voice call.
"Text to 9-1-1 is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic," said the chairman of the Santa Barbara County Law Enforcement Chiefs Association Sheriff Bill Brown. "Stay at home orders and practices can put victims of domestic violence, child abuse and elder abuse into almost constant close proximity to their abusers and thus inhibit their ability to report crimes verbally by telephone. Text to 9-1-1 gives victims of, and witnesses to, these crimes another way to report them and obtain help."
Below are the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines for how to contact 9-1-1. If you use a wireless phone or other type of mobile device, make sure to do the following in an emergency:
- If you can, always contact 9-1-1 by making a voice call
- If you are deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech disabled, and Text-to- 9-1-1 is not available, use a TTY or telecommunications relay service, if available
- Text messages can take longer to send/receive and may get out of order
- If you text 9-1-1 and text is not available in your area, you will receive a message advising “text is not available please make a voice call to 9-1-1”
- You should be prepared to give your location as location accuracy varies by carrier and should not be relied upon
- Text-to-9-1-1 service will not be available if the wireless carrier cannot ascertain a location of the device sending the message
- Text-to-9-1-1 is not available if you are roaming
- A text or data plan is required to place a text to 9-1-1
- Photos and videos cannot be sent to 9-1-1 at this time
- Text messages should be sent in English in plain language and not contain abbreviations or emojis
- Text-to-9-1-1 cannot be sent to more than one person
- The cost of Text to 9-1-1 services are included in the 9-1-1 surcharge tax and funded through the State Emergency Telephone Number Account, administered by the California Office of Emergency Services, 9-1-1 Branch
- Text-to-9-1-1 is not available in all areas of the State yet