Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced this afternoon that some cell phone users will now be able to send text messages to the county 911 center seeking help in emergency situations.
“This is just one more communication tool that we’re able to use,” he said as he announced the new capability with other county officials.
For the most part, people should stick to the usual way of calling 911 — by voice over the phone, he said.
But the county is introducing the texting option for people with hearing and speech impairments, or people in emergency situations where they are unable to safely talk.
For now, the option is open only to Verizon customers, but Mr. Fitzgerald said he expects other major cell phone carriers to make the option available in the near future.
A message will bounce back if the text to 911 does not go through.
Alvin Henderson, Allegheny County’s emergency services chief, said people should include their location in their text message to the 911 centers.
No texting slang or abbreviations should be used, he said.
The county’s 911 operators will be able to respond via text to the emergency text messages.
The texting capability is possible through systems already in place at the county 911 center to accept landline messages from people who have hearing or speech impairments, he said.
Today’s launch comes three months after the county started a “special needs registry,” a tool for first responders called to emergency situations involving county residents with disabilities who may need extra assistance.
About 400 people have signed up for the service, Mr. Henderson said today.
Kaitlynn Riely: email@example.com or 412-263-1707.