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Text-to-911 Now Available in Los Angeles County Enabling the Hearing and Speech Impaired

Jaclyn Petrow 12/05/17

911 iconThe strobe lights of your smoke alarm start flashing. You’re alone, but you know what to do. Get to the TTY, ASAP.

But tonight, that’s not an option because the TTY is in the same room as the growing fire. You run out of your house into your silent street. No one is in sight. You have your phone nestled in your pocket. But you rarely speak.

What do you do?

Many people have found themselves in situations similar to this, unable to make 911 calls. This group includes the hearing impaired, speech impaired, and those in dangerous situations where making noise could put their life in jeopardy. But, text-to-911 offers a silent alternative to calling 911 and provides level access to emergency services for all.

The new Los Angeles emergency reporting system, which had a test trial in October 2017, has officially debuted.  Citizens can say goodbye to the bounce back messages from 911 they received before this Fall. Now, an emergency text message is routed to the local 911 call center, also known as a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), and is sent in the same manner as if a call had been placed to 911. Los Angeles will be the largest populous city, to date, to have the text-to-911 system.

In 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted regulations that require mobile cell phone providers to make text-to-911 services available. However, 911 call centers were not required to accept them. If counties like Los Angeles did not have the system, their only obligation under the law was a bounce-back text informing the individual that the area does not take 911 text messages.

The new text-to-911 removes barriers for millions of individuals when reporting emergencies. Whether you have a disability that affects your hearing or speech or you find yourself in a potentially violent situation and can’t call in, text-to-911 can be a new reliable option. We all know that emergency situations are unpredictable, which is why providing more avenues and equal access is essential. Now, the ten million people living in Los Angeles County have a silent way to reach out for help from law enforcement, the fire department, or medical professionals.

It’s the middle of the day, and you are working remote. The house is quiet, until you hear the shattering of glass downstairs, followed by the sound of footsteps. Who is in my home?  How many? You take your phone and duck into a closet to hide. Then, you text 911.

You type, “Someone is in my house.”

The 911 center responds, “Where do you live?”

You give your address.

The next response glows on the screen and you’re able to exhale for the first time in minutes.

“Help is on the way.”


Update: Minnesota has also joined the list of places that offer Text-to-911.

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