Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike announces that the Yates County 911 Communications Center is now equipped to receive and respond to mobile phone SMS text messages sent to 9-1-1 for emergencies.

“Call if you can – Text if you can’t” is the slogan developed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the new Text-to-9-1-1 technology only used in an emergency.

“This service is avaiable for use by the deaf, hard-of-hearing, or speech impaired, or in situations where it is too dangerous to make a voice call to 911,” said Chief Dispatcher Sandra Smith, “Due to only 140 characters, the messages should be brief and concise, and the system cannot yet accept group texts, photos or videos.”

If the person is using a newer cell phone, the system plots the approximate location of the sender, according to Spike. 

“The benefits of text to 911 are significant, especially when the caller cannot communicate verbally with the 911 dispatcher,” said Spike, “especially when a crime is in progress, active shooter, or the caller is injured or choking, and cannot speak, or facing a domestic abuse situation, or hiding from a burglar, and silence means staying safe.”

Yates County has been working to put this system in place for some time to meet Next Generation 911 standards, and it has been “live” in test phase for several weeks since implementation. Smith said, “When someone sends a text message to 911, the dispatch center’s system creates a tone that is different than a regular call, which lets the dispatcher know a text is coming in. The computer then switches to a screen with a dialog box and the dispatcher can use their keyboard to type back and send a message to the person who texted for help.”

Spike reminds everyone that voice calls to 9-1-1 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency services and get help. Text to 911 should only be used in an emergency, when placing a voice call is not possible.

For non-emergencies text your tip to local or county police at 847411 keyword YATES.