Local residents seeking to contact 911 from their cell phones may now text the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, thanks to the implementation of the office’s new “Text 911” capability.
To use the new feature, users simply open their phone’s texting feature and type “911” in the recipient field; the user can then provide a brief description and location of the emergency and hit “send.”
“Inside the communications center, sirens sound like any other 911 call and the message displays on the operator’s screen,” SJSO spokesman Chuck Mulligan said. “Within a few moments, the system will respond that the initial message was delivered, followed by a response with the telecommunications personnel.”
Individuals who use the text 911 feature may experience a slight delay, Mulligan noted, as communications are routed back and forth through the systems that make the feature possible. In order to use the new feature, an individual’s wireless device and wireless provider must be in compliance. Currently within St. Johns County, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile customers are capable of connecting with the SJSO 911 center.
SJSO hopes the new feature will assist individuals who may not be able to verbalize their emergency to a 911 operator, such as a person in a domestic violence situation.
“We do, unfortunately, expect to see that occur sometime in our future,” Mulligan said. “Additionally, some medical conditions may render a person unable to speak but still have control over the extremities, so this is a plus. We also house the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Johns County, so this will be useful for many different sets of circumstances that our community may encounter.”
The sheriff’s office stressed, however, that Text 911 follows the same guidelines as landline and cellular calls, and as such should only be used for emergencies.
“Remember,” Mulligan said, “Call if you can, text if you can’t.”