Officials from Lexington County Emergency Services announced the launch of a new service for county residents as of Wednesday.
The county's new Text-to-911 will allow hearing and speech impaired residents, as well as those in potentially dangerous situations, to reach out for help.
Text-to-911 is meant to be an alternative to calling during an emergency when it would be unsafe for an individual to speak.
The service will be available for all Lexington County residents and visitors within the county's service area. Text-to-911 will not be available for residents within Cayce, West Columbia or Batesburg-Leesville, as those agencies provide their own 911 call services, according to county officials.
“If a caller is in a dangerous situation where they are unable to speak, such as an intruder in the home or a domestic violence situation, then Text-to-911 would be an emergency lifeline,” 911 Communications Chief Nikki Rodgers said. “However, speaking to a 911 dispatcher is still the fastest way to receive help to the location; so, remember: Call if you can, text if you can’t.”
If 911 cannot be called during an emergency, these steps can be taken for the text service:
- Enter "911" in the "to" field.
- Text your exact address and type of emergency
- Send the message
- Use simple words, but do not include abbreviations, emojis, pictures or slang
- Promptly answer questions and follow instructions
County officials noted that Text-to-911 does come with challenges. This could include a potential lengthened response due to the amount of time it takes to type a text to 911 and for it to be sent. Delivery of texts and speed of delivery are also not guaranteed. The county advises a few reminders to ensure the best service and response from dispatchers:
- Dispatchers prefer calls so they're able to get cues from background noise and vocal inflections. If you text 911, dispatchers will ask if they can call you.
- Location is not as accurate from a text as a call. It is important to include exact address.
- A text or data plan is required to use Text-to-911
- Texts to 911 will receive a bounce back message if you are roaming
- Texts to 911 have a 160 character limit, if longer, the texts could get out of order or may not be received
- There is no language translation service for Text-to-911
The county reminds residents not to text and drive.
The new service is intended only for emergencies, and texting 911 with a false report is a crime. Anyone who accidentally sends a text to 911 should send another text or call 911 to alert the dispatcher that there is no emergency.