MGN Online

Published: Aug 07, 2014 2:01 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 07, 2014 4:38 PM EDT

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- Customers of the nation's four major wireless carriers in unincorporated Collier County and Marco Island can now text information to 911 dispatchers.

In June, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office became the first public safety agency in Florida to implement text-to-911 service from cellular telephones for emergency help when a person is unable to make a 911 call. The service was initially offered to Verizon Wireless customers only.

Service to T-Mobile Customers was added in July. With the successful deployment of text-to-911 services with AT&T and Sprint, all customers of the four major wireless carriers are now able to utilize this potentially lifesaving service.

Text-to-911 is intended primarily for use in specific emergency scenarios:

* for an individual who is speech or hearing impaired

* for a person who is unable to call 911 due to a medical emergency that renders him or her unable to speak

* in the event of a crime such as a home invasion or abduction

The following are some tips to keep in mind regarding texting to 911:

* Callers should text to 911 only when calling is not an option.

* Texting is not always instantaneous, which means it may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a text-to-911 situation.

* Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since the Collier County Sheriff's Office Communications Center will not receive location information and will not be able to speak with the person sending the text. Text abbreviations or slang should never be used so that the intent of the message can be as clear as possible.

* Text-messages to 911 sent from near the edge of the county may not reach the Collier County Sheriff's Office. The caller may receive a bounce-back message indicating that a voice call must be made.

* Those who use the system must have a cell phone that is activated and capable of sending text messages in order to reach 911 via text. There is no charge to the customer for sending a text to 911.

* Photos, videos and other attachments cannot currently be sent to 911 via text, although those capabilities will be available in the future.