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Huntsville/Madison County now offering a text-to-911 service

"Call when you can, text when you can't." Text-to-911 is a secondary option when you can't make a phone call.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala — 9-1-1 is now at our fingertips in more ways than one. You can now text 9-1-1 in Madison County. 

"Texting to 9-1-1 is very simple. It's the same as texting to a friend," says Chief Operating Officer & 9-1-1 Director for Huntsville-Madison County 9-1-1 Center, Chris Tucker.

Tucker says here's how:

"Just pull up the text app in your smart phone, and key in 9-1-1 in the recipient field and key in your message, always put it in the location and the nurture of your emergency and click send," he says.

They say calling 9-1-1 should be your first choice, texting is a secondary option. Call 9-1-1 when you can, but text when you cannot.

"Since the Huntsville Madison County 9-1-1 Center is the largest in the state and the population continues to grow, it's very important to serve the community in the best way that we can," says Tucker.

The service benefits a caller who is deaf, hearing or speech impaired. Unable to speak because of medical condition such as stroke.

Or a caller who is in a situation where speaking would be unsafe like an abduction, domestic violence, or home invasion.

However, here are some things to keep in mind should you have to text 9-1-1. "Photos videos, emojis, attachments and group text are not accepted by text to 9-1-1 at this time," says Tucker.

Tucker also says never use abbreviations or slang terms. "We want to ensure that no matter who receives the text message, that they understand and get you the help that you need," he says.

For now, the Tucker says the text to 9-1-1 is only available in English and for carriers including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

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Text-to-911 means that if you need emergency help, you can "Call when you can, text when you can't."

This is a new service for the Huntsville-Madison County 911 Center.

The Center says that Text-to-911 should be considered a secondary option only to dialing 911 from a cellular or landline phone and should be limited to the following circumstances: 

  • When calling 9-1-1 is not possible, such as if the caller is deaf, hearing, or speech impaired;
  • If a caller is otherwise unable to speak, because of a medical condition (such as a stroke), or
  • If speaking would be unsafe, as in the case of abduction, domestic violence, or home invasion.

This service is available to those who have cellular service with Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, SouthernLINC, or Sprint. 

Just like regular 911 calls, this should only be used in an emergency, but people are urged to USE 911 if there is an emergency.

HEMSI stresses importance of calling 911 for medical emergencies

After the start of the COVID pandemic, HEMSI noticed a significant reduction in 911 calls, which worried first responders.

They are stressing the importance of calling 911 for medical emergencies. 

HEMSI CEO Jon Howell said, “We are extremely concerned that people not calling 911 because they are afraid of contracting the virus. Unfortunately, waiting to call can deprive patients of critical time for needed for medical intervention, especially for cardiac arrest and stroke victims.” 

Howell also explained how HEMSI is safeguarding their patients. “We want to make sure everyone knows that HEMSI has strict protocols in place to safeguard our patients. Our crews are wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), and all of our equipment receives thorough cleaning following each call before the unit goes out again.”

The bottom line, according to Howell? “Calling is safe. Don’t wait to get help...minutes matter.”

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