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Text 9-1-1, if you’re in danger in York County and afraid to make a phone call

York County 911 dispatcher Tracey Loss works at the 911 call center in Rock Hill.
York County 911 dispatcher Tracey Loss works at the 911 call center in Rock Hill. Special to The Herald

York County officials have debuted a new “Text to 9-1-1” service this month. They say the service will possibly help victims reach emergency officials without worrying that their attacker will find them.

The York County Department of Public Safety Communications, in cooperation with cellular phone carriers, implemented the new technology.

The service allows cell phone users in York County to send a text message to 9-1-1 in cases of emergencies, when a telephone call may be dangerous.

While York County 9-1-1 recommends anyone needing emergency services speak with an operator whenever possible, there are certain situations where texting is the best option.

Officials say a caller should remain silent during:

▪  A home intrusion.

▪  A threat of domestic violence.

▪  Any situation where danger is present and the caller should remain quiet.

The service also is available for those who are deaf or have hearing difficulties, or when texting is the only means available.

Allen Brandon, director of the York County Department of Public Safety Communications, said the capability will soon reach across the country. As of now, only 15 percent of the nation’s 6,000 9-1-1 call centers have text capabilities, he said.

“Every time we can put out a new resource or tool or educate someone on how to use 9-1-1 best, it’s there to save lives,” Brandon said. “If we save one life, it’s done its job.”

Any cell phone with a working telephone number that has text capabilities can be used. A 9-1-1 operator will receive the text and respond with questions to the caller to get the necessary information and send help.

Those questions will determine what type of service (police, fire or EMS) is needed.

In 2016, York County 9-1-1 received and dispatched more than 406,000 calls for service. Around 82 percent of 9-1-1 calls received in late 2016 were from cellular phones.

David Thackham: 803-329-4066, @dthackham

Text to 9-1-1 tips

▪  Always give your location to the 9-1-1 operator

▪  Photos and video cannot be texted to 9-1-1

▪  Texts to 9-1-1 cannot be part of a group message

▪  A text message can take longer to process than a phone call

▪  Don’t text and drive

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