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Skamania County Launches Text-to-911 Service

Nothing yet replaces the efficiency of a voice call to 911.  However, if you’re in an emergency-situation and don’t have the capability to call, you can now send a text message to 911 in Skamania County.

The text-to-911 service launched Monday, April 27th, is available to all Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular customers.  It is intended to benefit people that may not be able to speak due to an emergency such as a home invasion, or abusive partner, as well as individuals that are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities.

“Text should only be used if the person is not able to place a voice call to 911,” says Jason Fritz, 911 coordinator for Skamania County.  “That is the most efficient way to reach help. If you have an emergency in Skamania County, call if you can, text if you can’t.”

Text-to-911 is not yet available statewide. Skamania County’s launch on Monday brings the total number of counties to 18 out of 39.

If a text is sent from a wireless carrier that does not support text-to-911 or if a text is sent from a city or county that does not support text-to-911, the phone user should receive a message saying that there is no text service to 911 available at this time.

“That is something to really be aware of,” said Fritz. “Down here along the river, cellular signals tend to be picked up by cell towers in Oregon due to our topography.  So though you may be trying to text 911 in Skamania County, you end up having your session picked up by a dispatcher in Hood River, Oregon, or not at all if the agency reached doesn’t have the ability to receive 911 texts.” 

There is no additional cost to Skamania County residents.  The additional technology required to accept text-to-911 is already included in the county’s network costs.

A few facts about text-to-911:

  • A text plan with a participating carrier is required to place a text-to-911.
  • Photos and videos are not accepted at this time.
  • As with any text message, text to 911 messages may have a delay, may get out of order, or may not be received at all.
  • When texting 911 for an emergency, the first message should be the location of the emergency and the type of emergency help needed (police, fire or medical.)
  • Keep text messages brief and concise using full words.  No abbreviations or slang.
  • If using text-to-911 in order to not be heard, don’t forget to silence the cellphone ringer or alert sounds.
  • Text-to-911 sessions will not necessarily have your location information.