Colorado City Marshal’s Office rolls out text-to-911 program as a vital boost to public safety

Photo illustration. | Photo by Pashalgnatov/ iStock/Getty Images Plus St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Colorado City Marshal’s Office recently rolled out leading edge technology that will allow residents to communicate with emergency dispatch by text, which officials say is a vital component in the department’s continuing efforts to enhance public safety for residents and anyone visiting the valley nestled along the Utah-Arizona border.

Colorado City Marshal’s Office patrol vehicle in Colorado City, Ariz., Jan. 22, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Chief Robb Radley, St. George News

The text-to-911 service allows those in an emergency situation to communicate with the department’s 911 center through texting. The message is sent to a control center, which forwards the text to emergency dispatch using an internet-based application.

Chief Robb Radley with the Colorado City Marshal’s Office told St. George News the software that makes the service possible was recently installed on the department’s current emergency dispatch network and is designed to provide emergency services to those unable to make a voice call. The program was made possible through funding by the state of Arizona 911 Office.

A statement released by the department Friday said text-to-911 can be used in situations where an intruder is in the home or if there is a hostage situation – situations when any noise could place the person at further risk. It can also be used by the deaf or hearing impaired, those experiencing a medical emergency or for times when an injury or disability would make a voice call to 911 impossible.

Moreover, the service can be the lifeline in areas where poor or spotty cell service would hinder a voice call.

“Once the text message arrives at our Emergency Communications Center,” Radley said, “The dispatch operator will be able to respond to your request for help.”

Stock image by Milovan Zrnic/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

In areas where text-to-911 is unavailable, the user will receive a bounce back message advising the service is not available at that particular location and to call 911 instead.

“It is exciting to see new technology become available for our residents and visitors,” Radley said. He added that whenever possible, a voice call is preferred and is the fastest and most reliable way to communicate with 911, but having the option to text for help may mean the difference between life and death in situations where text messaging is the only option available.

The text should include as much information as possible, including the address or location where the emergency is taking place since emergency dispatch may not be able to pull up an address automatically. It should also include the type of situation it is, how many are injured or involved and if there are any weapons and so on.

In the event the texting service is not available to those who are deaf or speech disabled, Radley said, it is recommended they continue using a TTY or a telecommunications relay service whenever possible.

Text-to-911 – Federal Communications Commission

According to the Federal Communications Commission, all wireless carriers and other providers are required to deliver texts to any 911 call center that requests them – as long as the communications center has the necessary programming capable of accepting text or SMS messages. Carriers are also required to send a bounce back message to the user so they know the text message failed to go through to prevent the user from mistakenly believing emergency dispatch has received the message and is sending help.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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