Fitzgerald, Ellenbogen Announce Text to 911 for Verizon Wireless Customers Launch
(Targeted News Service Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) PITTSBURGH, May 14 -- Allegheny County issued the following news release:
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Council Member Jim Ellenbogen announced today that Verizon Wireless customers in Allegheny County can now send a short message service (SMS) text message to 911 for emergency help when unable to make a 911 voice call. This service will be available to any Verizon Wireless customer within range of an Allegheny County cell tower. Text to 911 will allow access for the hearing/speech impaired and a safe means of contact to 911 for those who are in a situation where it is unsafe to speak on the phone.
"The safety of residents and visitors in Allegheny County is our number - one concern," said Council Member Jim Ellenbogen, who is the Chair of the Public Safety Committee. "Text to 911 could be a life - saver, especially for people who might otherwise not be able to make a voice call. The Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services has done a great job in getting this service established, and making it available for our residents."
Verizon Wireless customers in Allegheny County should keep the following in mind if they send a text to 911:
* Customers should use the texting option only when calling 911 is not an option.
* Using a phone to call 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not a lways instantaneous, which is critical during a life - threatening emergency. It will probably take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a text to 911 situation in Allegheny County because of the time involved. Someone must enter the text, and t he message must go over the network and must be processed by the 911 telecommunicator's TTY equipment. The telecommunicator must then read the text and then text back through the TTY equipment.
* Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since the Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services Communications Center will receive only an approximate location of the cell phone, 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 dialogue can be as clear as possible.
* Customers must be in range of cell towers in the Allegheny County area. If customers are outside or near the edge of the county, the message may not reach the Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services Communications Centers.
* Texts sent to 911 have the same 160 - character limit as other text messages.
* Verizon Wireless customers must have mobile phones that are capable of sending text messages. The solution is available for customers who use the native SMS provided by Verizon Wireless. Customers should consult their over - the - top (OTT) messaging provider to determine if and how text to 911 is provided by the OTT application.
* The texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire, or emergency medical services. Non - emergency issues should still be communicated to the Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services through its non - emergency line at 412 - 473 - 3056.
* SMS911 should only be used to communicate between emergency help and the texter with no pictures, video, other attachments or other recipients appended to the message.
"Verizon Wireless and TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. (TCS) have been at the forefront of working with public safety stakeholders to bring text to 911 to our customers," said Richard Craig, director of engineering for Verizon Wireless. "The SMS911 National Gateway enables us to bring reliable emergency communications to public safety answering points (PSAPs) across the country. We were proud to work alongside the team in Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services and TCS to deploy this new solution."
The Verizon Wireless SMS911 National Gateway has three text to 911 delivery options: a web browser solution known as GEM911 for PSAPs with Internet access and web browser capability; a Direct IP solution for next - generation IP - enabled PSAPs with call - taker workstations that have integrated text handling software; and an SMS to TTY solution for legacy PSAPs.
The Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services Communications Center joins the ranks of many PSAPs to use the SMS911 gateway, a significant step in making text to 911 available more broadly. The deployment follows the recent announcement earlier this year from Verizon Wireless and TCS (NASDAQ: TSYS) that they are making a national text to 911 solution available.
"I'm very proud that we are able to offer this service to our residents, particularly those who may be speech or hearing - impaired," said County Executive Fitzgerald. "This is just one more tool available to our emergency responders that reflects their own vision for excellence and also shows progressiveness in this aspect o f the service we provide to our residents."
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