Starting June 1, citizens in Blount County will be able to text 911 for emergencies instead of having to call.
Blount County E-911 Communications Center Public Information Officer Richee Kidd said that while the “Text-to-911” program will begin next month, dialing 911 for emergencies still will be preferred.
“If it’s a true emergency and they can speak,” Kidd said, “we want them to call 911.”
Providing essential information to a 911 dispatcher is much faster by voice than text, and texting is not always instantaneous, she noted.
However, in certain emergency situations picking up a phone isn’t possible.
“When you’re in danger — a lot of times you can’t really talk on the phone — but you can text,” Kidd said.
A texting option will be better for Blount County residents who are deaf, hearing or speech impaired, she said.
When a citizen first texts 911, he or she should send the exact address and nature of the emergency. If a texter stops sending messages, a dispatcher may call to check on the emergency. Dispatchers recommend silencing the phone while texting 911 if a ringing phone would compromise an individual’s safety.
Blount County E-911 Communications Center Center provides dispatch services for all Blount County emergency response agencies.
There are limitations to the text services; photos and videos cannot be accepted by the dispatch center, and users will be limited by their phone carrier’s data plan.
“They have to understand there is a time delay with text messages, and if you don’t have data you won’t be able to text,” Kidd said.