“911” Call If You Can, Text If You Can’t

“9-1-1” – Call if You Can, Text if You Can’t!

Unable to hear or speak and have an emergency? Reaching emergency services under those circumstances just became easier in Charlotte County. Both Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office and Punta Gorda Police Department 911 Centers are now capable of receiving text messages.

Text to 9-1-1 is only be used in the event that someone is unable to hear or speak. This could be a hearing-impaired individual that does not have access to a TTY (Teletypewriter for the hearing-impaired) or a person reporting a crime that is in a situation where they are afraid of being heard when making a voice call.

  1. Text to 9-1-1 has several limitations and therefore making a voice call when possible is always the best option. (Remember the motto… Call if you can, text if you can’t) Here are some tips to remember when texting 9-1-1.
  2. As with any call to 9-1-1, providing the address of the emergency is the most important information you can provide in an emergency. Without it could mean a delayed response or no response at all.
  3. When communicating with 911, use plain language. No abbreviations, shortcuts or slang.  Using abbreviations can hinder the meaning of the message. Not all parties have the same understanding when it comes to abbreviations.
  4. Do not send group messages. When texting 9-1-1, do not add other individuals to the text. Typically, the carriers strip the additional parties from the call, so save some time and do not add additional parties.
  5. Some carriers are able to send pictures with the call however not all carriers have this capability. If you have questions concerning carrier capabilities, contact your carrier.
  6. There is no guarantee that a message will be sent or received. This will be dependent on your carrier coverage in your area.
  7. Messages may be received out of order.
  8. Text message communication takes longer than a voice call.  It can take anywhere between 4-6 seconds longer than a voice call.
  9. You must have a cell phone with service to text 9-1-1.
  10. Not all counties throughout the State of Florida have text to 9-1-1 Services.  If you enter a county that does not have text service and attempt to make a text to 9-1-1 call, you will receive a bounce back message.
  11. Misuse of the 9-1-1 system by either voice or text is strictly prohibited per FSS 365.172.
  12. Do not text and drive. If you need to reach 9-1-1 via text, pull off to the side of the road in a safe place and make initiate the text call.

We recognize that there are quite a few restrictions and understand this is an interim solution as we move to Next Generation 911 Services. It is expected that services pertaining to text will improve over time and as they do, we will keep the public informed of changes.  Even with the limitations, we feel that text to 9-1-1 service can be a valuable resource to those that are unable to speak or hear.

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