Lampasas residents soon will be able to text for help in emergency situations with the initialization of Text-to-911 technologies.
Lampasas Chief of Police Sammy Bailey said the program, which went live on Monday, was paid for by the Central Texas Council of Governments Regional 911 Program.
“This is a life-saving option for people,” Bailey said. “The purpose is for when people can’t talk on the phone, or when they can’t make a call out, but they could text.”
Bailey and Assistant Chief Jody Cummings said this texting option might be most suitable for situations of danger, such as domestic violence, robberies, abductions or emergencies in a classroom setting.
Bailey said the 911 text service also makes emergency help more accessible for the hearing impaired, who in the past may have been limited to the use of a telecommunications device for the deaf, or TTY phone.
“It’s very important for people to know to call if you can, because the text will be slower,” Lampasas PD Communications Supervisor Kelli Sanguinet said. “There is a lag between sending and receiving the text.”
Sanguinet also noted that individuals texting for help should not send emojis or text “lingo.”
“Emojis will not come through [via text], and photos and videos will not come through,” she said. “We will always answer in plain speech. If [the texter] doesn’t understand what we are saying, they need to ask.”
Sanguinet said the Lampasas police dispatch officers have tested the Text-to-911 service with positive results.
“The service works with the four major carriers: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint,” she said.
Despite the functional benefits of the new text service, Sanguinet does not believe the police department will receive many texts for help.
“I think in most situations people will still call,” she said.
“You may get more serious stuff [via text],” Sanguinet said, such as crimes that are actively occurring.
She added that when Dallas police officials initialized their Text-to-911 service, they received only four texts within the first year.
Also, CTCOG has updated Lampasas dispatchers’ maps to improve accuracy.
Both emergency calls and texts can be pinpointed to about seven feet within the city limits, Sanguinet said. The accuracy of the calls and texts in other areas of the county has yet to be tested.
“Technology is leaps and bounds from where it used to be,” she said.
HOW TO TEXT 911 IN EMERGENCIES
To use Text-to-911, compose a text message and enter 911 as the recipient. Once the text is sent, the 911 system will send an automated message asking the individual texting for the address of the emergency. This begins the text session between dispatch officers and the individual in need of help.
When texting 911, an individual should communicate the exact location and nature of the emergency.
As always, law enforcement authorities advise that individuals should not text and drive.