Lake County has now integrated texting into its 911 answering system, allowing residents in need of emergency services to reach a first responder via text when calling is not an option.
The Lake County Office of Public Safety Support worked with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon networks across Lake County to make text-to-911 available for all residents in the County regardless of their mobile carrier.
Incoming text-to-911 communications are answered from the same console as voice calls, and like calls, texts can be transferred to the most appropriate first responder agency, whether EMS, Fire Rescue or the Sheriff’s Office. Texts can also be transferred to the neighboring counties of Marion, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia.
“Having this capability with our neighbors is important, as cell towers do not have jurisdictional boundaries and calls for another agency could potentially come to Lake County and require a transfer,” said Greg Holcomb, Director of the Office of Public Safety Support. “Call 911 if you can, text if you cannot.”
Proven effective throughout the U.S., text-to-911 is recognized as an excellent resource to have when cell phones are available but speaking on the phone would put the caller in danger. The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) notes that text-to-911 also allows direct access to 911 for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities. However, residents are reminded to call, rather than text, whenever possible to ensure that critical information can be relayed in the most efficient way possible.
When texting to 911, callers are also urged to use plain English, as emojis have the potential to be blocked and short expressions, such as OMG for “oh my God,” are not always universally understood.
Each 911 tele-communicator is certified by the State of Florida and receives at least 232 hours of training that provides residents with a “zero-minute” response time for lifesaving support. To learn more about Lake County’s new text-to-911 system, view this Public Service Announcement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2gwyOonN4M.