Payne County residents will now be able to text 911 through Text-to-911.

“It is not an app that you need to download on your device. You simply send a text message to 911,” Stillwater Police Department Capt. Kyle Gibbs said.

The purpose of this app is to provide people the option to safely contact 911 when in a situation that calling isn’t particularly safe for the caller.

“Text-to-911 provides another path for contacting emergency operators. It can be used in situations where a voice call may not be safe or possible,” Gibbs said.

Text-to-911 is intended primarily for use in three scenarios:

• By an individual who is deaf, hard-of-hearing or has a speech disability.

• A situation in which speaking out loud would be impossible or unsafe for a caller.

• A medical emergency rendering a person incapable of speech.

Brian Porter, dispatch day supervisor, is confident that this app will be beneficial for all of Payne County.

“We installed a new, state-of-the-art 911 system less than a year ago that is very user friendly and is fully capable of receiving text to 911 messages,” Porter said.

It is important to remember Text-to-911 only works while the reporting party is in Payne County.

“There are five 911 dispatch centers in Payne County. They are Yale PD, Cushing PD, Stillwater PD, OSU PD and Payne County S.O.,” Porter said.

Although Text-to-911 is functional, it is best to call 911 unless there is a situation that you can’t.

“Communication is always preferred when trying to get emergency help,” Gibbs said. “Therefore, when texting 911, the operator will ask if the caller can speak with them rather than text.”

As with anything, there are both pros and cons with Text-to-911 for dispatchers.

Porter said the pro of this is texting allows dispatchers to take control of calls more effectively. They are shorter and concise.

The cons are texting is less reliable and dispatchers are no longer able to hear the background noises in the texting form.

“Text messaging services are less reliable than voice,” Porter said. “Receiving information from a caller via text eliminates the dispatcher’s ability to hear things like the tone of the callers voice, background noises, etc.”

Callers who misuse Text-to-911 will face the same consequences for those that misuse the 911 call system. Misuse of 911 is a misdemeanor crime that can result in being cited or arrested.

“We certainly anticipate people misusing Text-to-911 just like they do voice calls to 911,” Gibbs said. “The technology identifies the calling/texting phone number and provides the caller/texter’s location.”

Porter laid out the instructions on using Text-to-911.

Open your text messaging screen – In the “To” field, Enter: 911 (with no dashes or spaces)

Your first text should be short, with the location and brief description of the emergency – Push SEND

Answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 text-taker.

Do not send your 911 message in a group text to multiple people. That will stop the message from reaching the 911 dispatcher.

Plain Text only: Text-to-911 can only receive words, numbers and punctuation – 911 cannot receive emoticons, emoji, pictures or videos. Do not use “text speak” or abbreviations (such as TTYL or LOL) since your message could be interpreted incorrectly.

English only: Interpretation services are only available for voice calls, not text-to-911.

FOR EMERGENCY USE ONLY

DO NOT TEXT AND DRIVE

LOCATION INFO: Automatic Location Information for Text to 911 is considerably less accurate than voice calls. This drives home the importance of being aware of your location and being able to provide it to the dispatcher.

ADDITIONAL INFO:

You must have text messaging included on your wireless plan with a participating carrier to use text-to-911 service.

Text-to-911 will not work from a deactivated cellphone.

Standard messaging rates may apply; however, Text-to-911 service itself does not raise your wireless bill.

It is funded by an existing fee that is already included in your phone service fees.

Remember, call if you can and text if you can’t.

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