LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. — Residents in Lancaster County can now text 911 if they are in an emergency situation.
According to Lancaster County Public Safety Communications, mobile phone users will have the ability to send a text of up to 140 characters to 911. All phone carriers have been tested and are able to use this feature. This includes Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, among others.
Officials said Text-to-911 should only be used in the instance of an actual emergency when placing a call is not possible. For instance, if the caller is deaf, hard-of-hearing, speech impaired, or when speaking out loud would place the caller in danger.
Robert Purser, director of Lancaster County Public Safety Communications, hopes this new software will make it easier for those in Lancaster County to reach 911.
“Voice calls are still the best and fastest way to get assistance from 911,” Purser said. “However, this gives us another resource we didn’t have before to better serve the citizens of Lancaster County. Call if you can, text if you can’t.”
He told WCNC Charlotte that sometimes people could be in an unsafe situation and texting could be a life-saving tool.
“If you were in the car with someone with bad intentions, and you didn’t want them to hear what you were saying on the phone," Purser said.
This is not new to the Carolinas. Mecklenburg County rolled out 911 texting back in 2020. CMPD sent WCNC Charlotte only about .3% of 911 contact is made up of texting. In the first quarter of 2023, the department said it had received 806 text messages.
"Even if it has only benefitted one person it has done its job,” Purser said.
If there is an emergency and you are unable to make a call, it is important to remember the following steps:
- Don’t text and drive.
- In the first text message, send your location and the type of emergency.
- Text in simple words – send a short text message in English without abbreviations or slang terms.
- Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 call taker
Don’t Abuse 911. The text-to-911 service is only for emergencies. It is a crime to text or call 911 with a false report. Prank texters can be located.
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