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Call if you can, text if you can't.

Wireless customers in the City of Visalia can now send a short message service (SMS) text message to 9-1-1 for emergency help when unable to make a 9-1-1 voice call.

"Text to 9-1-1 was not developed as a replacement to calling 9-1-1 in an emergency situation," shared Gary Williams, Sergeant, Visalia Police Department Sergeant. "It was developed as an enhancement to reaching 9-1-1 services in specific situations where a voice call is not feasible."

The three specific situations are:

1. The caller is hearing/voice impaired

2. A medical emergency renders the person incapable of speech, or

3. When speaking out loud would put the caller in danger, such as a home invasion, an abduction, a domestic violence incident, or an active shooter scenario.

"Our Communications Operators for the City of Visalia Police and Fire Departments are honored to be the first public safety agencies in Tulare County to provide this Next Generation 9-1-1 service to our citizens," added Williams.

The City of Visalia Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) is using a secure web browser-based service that enables PSAP Operators to communicate with Texters who send text messages to 9-1-1 requesting emergency assistance.

Texts to 9-1-1 from areas where the service is not available will receive a “bounce back” message telling them to make a voice call.

Wireless customers in City of Visalia should keep the following in mind if they send a text to 911:
  • Customers should use the texting option only when calling 9-1-1 is not an option
  • Using a phone to call 9-1-1 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency. It may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a text to 9-1-1 situation because of the time involved
  • Someone must enter the text; the message must go over the network, and the 9-1-1 Telecommunicator must read the text and then text back
  • Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since the Visalia Emergency Communications Center will receive only the location of the cell phone tower closest to the call’s origin
  • Text abbreviations or slang should never be used so that the intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible
  • Customers must be in range of cell towers in the City of Visalia. If customers are outside or near the edge of the county, the message may not reach the Visalia Emergency Communications Center
  • Texts sent to 9-1-1 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages
For more information on text to 9-1-1, contact Sergeant Gary Williams at the Visalia Police Department at (559) 713-4216.

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