Texting service for emergencies when it’s unsafe to call 9-1-1, and for those with hearing and/or speech impairment

By Staff Reports

The county in September released a new service that allows citizens to text to 9-1-1. This is a new option that will help those who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired, and anyone who might be unsafe if they were to be heard by an intruder or someone they know. The service is now available in the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County and all local jurisdictions, except for Campbell and Los Gatos.

“This new service will be critical in emergency situations involving individuals with disabilities,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

Text to 9-1-1 is intended primarily for use in three emergency scenarios:

  • When an individual is deaf, hard-of-hearing, or has a speech disability.
  • When someone is in a situation where it is not safe to place a voice call to 9-1-1.
  • When a medical emergency arises that renders the person incapable of speaking.

“It takes considerable collaboration and partnership among different jurisdictions to implement the Text to 9-1-1 service in so many areas of our county,” said Heather Plamondon, county 9-1-1 communications director. “In certain situations, texting for help can save lives. We encourage all residents to learn more about when it is appropriate to use this service and how to use it.”

How do you text to 9-1-1?

  • Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” or “Recipient” field;
  • The first text to 9-1-1 should be short, include the address and the location of the emergency, and ask for police, fire or ambulance;
  • Push the “Send” button;
  • Answer the questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 dispatcher;
  • Text in simple words — no abbreviations or slang;
  • Keep text messages short.

Dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency is still the preferred way to request help, and the public is reminded to “Call if you can. Text if you can’t.” Texting is not always ideal because it takes longer and does not provide the location of the texter. The Text to 9-1-1 function is available in English only. Individuals who do not speak English would need to call 9-1-1, and an interpreter will provide assistance in their language.

Robert Airoldi