Milwaukee County launching service allowing residents to text 911 in case of emergency

MILWAUKEE COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee County announced Wednesday, Dec. 8, it is launching a new service that allows residents near county cellphone towers to text 911 emergency service if they are unable to make a voice call.

The county joins a growing number of areas across the country in launching the "Text-to-911" service. 

“This is a fantastic day for Milwaukee County as we launch an important emergency service that we’ve wanted to bring to the community for quite some time. This service increases the equitability of our public safety resources by leveling the field of accessibility for deaf, hard-of-hearing, and deaf-blind individuals to access 911 services at any time,” said County Executive David Crowley. “In addition, text-to-911 provides another tool to increase public safety for individuals in situations where they cannot call due to poor reception or in situations where it is too dangerous to make a call. When it comes to 911 emergency services, residents should call if they can and text if they can’t.”

According to a news release, to text 911, residents should enter the numbers "911" into the “To” field and compose a short, simply worded text message in the text message field, just like a normal text message, using no abbreviations or jargon. The first brief message should describe the location of emergency and the type of help needed. After sending the first message, users should be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 call taker. Dispatches do not have the ability to get picture or video through the text message service at this time, however the department anticipates next generation 911 technology arriving soon will enable 911 call centers to receive photos and video in the future

“Calling 911 remains the quickest and most efficient method to share information about an emergency, but the texting technology allows another option for individuals to contact emergency services in the event they cannot call,” said Office of Emergency Management Director Cassandra Libal. “Our number one goal is keeping residents healthy and safe, so we’re excited to provide another tool to meet the needs of County residents.

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