Lane County launches text to 911 service

Callers are asked to remember that calling 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help.

Posted: Jan 6, 2021 8:30 AM
Updated: Jan 6, 2021 10:16 AM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Most people in Eugene and Lane County can now send a text message to 911 in an emergency if they are unable to call for help.

Officials say this is not a replacement for a phone call in an emergency but instead as an option for three specific scenarios:

  1. The caller is hearing or voice impaired.
  2. A medical emergency renders the person incapable of speech.
  3. When speaking out loud would put the caller in danger, such as a home invasion, a domestic violence incident, or an active shooter scenario.

The Central and South Lane County 911 Centers are live with Text to 911 ability. Western Lane 911, which serves the Florence area, does not currently have this capability.

Callers are asked to remember that calling 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous and could take longer for responders to be dispatched.

Other information to keep in mind if you send a text to 911:

  • Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative since the Public Safety Answering Point will initially only receive a coarse location. A PSAP is a call center responsible for answering calls to an emergency telephone number for police, firefighting, and ambulance services. Dispatchers receive and dispatch these emergency services. Central Lane Communications is a regional call center.
  • Text abbreviations, emoticons, or slang should never be used so that the dialogue's intent can be as clear as possible.
  • Customers must be in range of cell towers in location. If customers are outside or near the edge of the county, the message may not reach the call center.
  • Texts to 911 from areas where the service is not available will receive a "bounce back" message telling them to make a voice call.
  • Texts sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.
  • Wireless customers who use Usage Controls should remove this feature to ensure full text-to-911 capabilities.
  • Wireless customers must have mobile phones that are capable of sending text messages. The solution is available for customers who use the native SMS provided by wireless carriers. Customers should consult their over-the-top (OTT) messaging provider to determine if and how the OTT application provides text-to-911.
  • The texting function should only be used for emergencies that require an immediate response from police, fire, or emergency medical services. For non-emergency situations, customers should contact their local public safety agency via a 10-digit non-emergency number.
  • Text-to-911 should only be used to communicate between emergency help and the texter. No pictures, video, other attachments, or other recipients can be attached to the message.

When in an emergency, all callers should remember to "call if you can; text if you can't."

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