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September 22, 2018

9-1-1: Call if you can; text if you can’t – Oswego County 911 Now Accepts Text Messages


OSWEGO – Although it should only be used when a voice call is not an option, people in Oswego County can now text emergency calls to the Oswego County 9-1-1 center.

County Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner (District 13, New Haven), said that the major cell phone carriers serving Oswego County recently installed and tested equipment to verify that the text-to-9-1-1 system works.

Paul Van Dyke, operations coordinator for the Oswego County E-9-1-1 Center, answers a text message requesting emergency assistance. Text to-9-1-1 service is now available in Oswego County. It should only be used when a voice phone call is not an option.

Paul Van Dyke, operations coordinator for the Oswego County E-9-1-1 Center, answers a text message requesting emergency assistance. Text to-9-1-1 service is now available in Oswego County. It should only be used when a voice phone call is not an option.

“We have been working since the fall to have new equipment installed and make sure it’s operational for Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile customers,” Gardner said. “The last of the carriers came on board a few weeks ago. The Public Safety Telecommunicator Call Takers have been trained to respond to text-to-9-1-1 calls, and the system is functioning as it should be.”

Over the past several months Oswego County’s E-9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center received a major equipment upgrade, made possible by an $836,000 New York State grant to provide “next generation” 9-1-1 capabilities in Oswego County, said Michael Allen, E-9-1-1 Emergency Communications Department Director.

“We are one of a handful of counties that have an integrated solution to handling text-to-9-1-1 calls,” said Allen. “The 9-1-1 text message rings in just like a normal phone call. Incoming text message will appear on all Public Safety Telecommunicator Call Takers’ equipment. A screen will pop up, the Public Safety Telecommunicator Call Taker answers it, and begins a text dialog with the caller.“

Text messages from the E-9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center appear on the message screen of a wireless phone. If the text message cannot go through, the caller receives a notice instructing them to make a voice call to 9-1-1.

Text messages from the E-9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center appear on the message screen of a wireless phone. If the text message cannot go through, the caller receives a notice instructing them to make a voice call to 9-1-1.

Texted phone calls to 9-1-1 follow the same parameters as other texted wireless messages.

Callers are limited to a number of characters and reception and service will be limited if cell phone service is interrupted.

If the E-911 Emergency Communications Center can’t answer the call after 30 seconds has elapsed, the caller will receive a text message instructing them to make a voice call because there is no text service available to 9-1-1 at this time.

When the call is over, the caller will receive a text message confirming that the dialogue has closed.

In most cases Oswego County’s equipment will be able to see the longitude and latitude coordinates of the caller.

“Text-to-9-1-1 offers many significant benefits to consumers, especially in cases where the caller cannot communicate verbally,” said Legislator Linda Lockwood, District 11, Volney, chairwoman of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee. “The feature is very useful for people who are hard of hearing, deaf, or speech-impaired. It will also help in situations when a crime is in progress, when the caller is facing domestic abuse, or if the caller is injured and unable to speak.”

When a text-to-9-1-1 call is received at the Oswego County E- 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center, the Public Safety Telecommunicator Call Taker has a series of message options to use to assist the caller and obtain more information about the nature of the emergency.

When a text-to-9-1-1 call is received at the Oswego County E- 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center, the Public Safety Telecommunicator Call Taker has a series of message options to use to assist the caller and obtain more information about the nature of the emergency.

“Texting should only be used when it’s not an option to make a voice call to 9-1-1,” said Allen.

The service isn’t available in all areas of New York State.

Allen said it’s important when texting to 9-1-1 to keep messages brief and concise.

Take the following steps to text to 9-1-1 during an emergency:

• Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” field;
• The first text message to 9-1-1 should be brief and contain the location of the emergency and type of help needed;
• Push the “send” button.
• Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 Public Safety Telecommunicator Call Taker.
• Text in simple words – do not use abbreviations.

Below are a few things to know if you need to text 9-1-1:

• Text location information may not be equal to current location technology.
• As with all text messages, 9-1-1 messages can take longer to receive, can get out of order, or may not be received.
• Text-to-9-1-1 is not available if you are roaming.
• A text or data plan is not required to place a text to 9-1-1.
• If texting to 9-1-1 is not available in your area, or is temporarily unavailable, you will receive a message indicating that texting 9-1-1 is not available and to contact 9-1-1 by other means.
• Photos and videos can’t be sent to 9-1-1.
• Text to 9-1-1 cannot include more than one person. Do not send an emergency text to anyone other than 9-1-1.
• Don’t text and drive.

“Even though text-to-9-1-1 is now available in Oswego County, the best way to contact 9-1-1 continues to be through voice communications whenever possible,” said Allen.

In addition to Legislator Lockwood, the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee also includes legislator Margaret Kastler, (District 1, Sandy Creek), vice chairwoman, Frank Castiglia Jr. (District 25, Fulton);  James Karasek (District 22, Granby), Richard Kline (District 12, Pennellville), Jacob Mulcahey (District 15, Oswego); and Milferd Potter (District 2, Orwell).

For more information on test-to-9-1-1 programs, call the Oswego County 9-1-1 Center at 349-8215 or visit www.nena.org

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