Oswego County E 9-1-1

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Questions and Answers about Text-to-9-1-1

E-911 Center

“Call if you can, Text if you can’t”

What is Text-to-9-1-1?

Text-to-9-1-1 refers to the ability to send text messages to the E 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center during an emergency. A limited amount of caller data is automatically provided to 9-1-1, such as the location of the nearest wireless tower site to the caller.

What are the benefits of Text-to-9-1-1?

There are significant benefits when the caller cannot communicate verbally. For example, Text-to-9-1-1 is very useful people who are hard of hearing, deaf, or speech-impaired. Text-to-9-1-1 could also help in situations when a crime is in process and the caller, fearing for their safety, cannot speak.

Is text-to-9-1-1 available in Oswego County?

Yes. However, if the text lines are busy, or the caller cannot connect properly, a “bounce-back” message will be sent telling the caller: “Text-to-911 is not currently available. You must place a voice call to 9-1-1”.

Even though Text-to-9-1-1 is available in Oswego County, the best way to contact 9-1-1 continues to be by placing a voice call whenever possible.

How does it work?

The wireless telephone carriers provide Text-to-9-1-1 services in the format necessary for 9-1-1 to receive the text. When someone sends a Text-to-9-1-1 the text is routed through several text control points prior to arriving at 9-1-1.

What are the disadvantages to making Text-to-9-1-1 work?

  • Text-to-9-1-1 is considered a “best efforts” service due to the technology constraints associated with text messaging.

  • Reporting an emergency utilizing Text-to-9-1-1 takes more time than a voice call.

  • Sending a Text-to-9-1-1 may not be reliable. It is faster and more reliable to place a voice call to 9-1-1.

  • As with any text messaging services, there is no guarantee a text message will be sent, delivered or received in a timely manner.

  • If Text-to-9-1-1 is not available, or is temporarily unavailable, you will receive a “bounce back” message indicating that “Text-to-9-1-1 is not available, you must place a voice call.”

  • Important Information for Text-to-9-1-1 users:

  • A text data plan is required to place a Text-to-9-1-1.

  • Text-to-9-1-1 is not yet available if you are roaming.

  • Text messages should be brief and concise.

  • Providing location information, telephone number, your name and the nature of the emergency in the first message is imperative.

  • Text abbreviations and slang should never be used so that the intent of the dialog can be as clear as possible.

  • Text-to-9-1-1 should only be used for EMERGENCY situations that require a response from police, fire or emergency medical services, when the caller cannot or should not speak.

  • Photos and videos cannot be sent to 9-1-1.

  • Text-to-9-1-1 cannot include more than one person. Do not send an emergency text to anyone other than 9-1-1.

  • Do not text and drive!

  • How to Make a Text-to-9-1-1 Call:

    Your wireless telephone must have text messaging service.

    1. Unlock the cell phone keypad if it is locked. Some cell phones do not allow receiving and/or sending text messages if the keypad is locked, even though they allow a user to call 9-1-1. “Unlocking” means entering your personal password or pressing an unlock button on the phone.

    2. Enter “911” in the “To” calling field.

    3. Enter the text describing your location, telephone number, name and nature of your emergency.

    4. Send the text message.

    5. Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 Public Safety Telecommunicator call taker.

    6. Text in simple words – do not use abbreviations.

    7. Keep text messages brief and concise.

    You will know that the Text-to-9-1-1 session has been concluded when you receive the message, “End of 9-1-1 call”. After receiving this message, if you need to further communicate with 9-1-1 you will need to initiate a new text session by entering 9-1-1 in the “To” field and sending a new text message.

    The Oswego County E 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Department is constantly striving to meet the evolving needs of the public, and right now that means implementing a limited Text-to-9-1-1 solution.

    E-911 Center



    To report non-emergency incidents, call 343-1313 or 1-800-962-4433.

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