WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — A new feature enabling cellular phone users to text message What-Comm 911 call-receivers is now available to residents in Whatcom County.
Text-to-911 is a vital service intended for use by those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who may have a speech difference. For individuals with any of these conditions placing a phone call to 911 was, in the past, either difficult or not an option.
Text-to-911 will also work for someone who is in a situation where it is not safe to place a voice call to 911, as well as someone who finds themselves in a medical emergency which renders them incapable of speech but able to text. The fourth option for Text-to-911 is if the cellular phone user is in a location where cell coverage is spotty, however a text would go through. What-Comm Emergency Communications Press Release (June 24, 2021)
The service feature, referred to as “Text-to-911,” became available this month according to a press release from What-Comm Emergency Communications Supervisor Justin Rasmussen today, June 24th.
The press release provided some advice on how to best use the service.
- You must have a text or data plan for your cell phone to place a Text-to-911 message
- Enter “911” into the “to” or “recipient” field
- The first message should be location and type of help needed, for instance, “1234 Main Street, Bellingham, need ambulance for injury”
- Press “send” and stay with your phone
- Be prepared to answer questions, via text, use full words, keep messages concise
- Follow instructions from the 911 operator.
What-Comm 911 is not equipped to receive photos, videos or linked text via Text-to-911.
Officials note that Text-to-911 is not yet available in all counties. Attempts to send a text to 911 from a wireless carrier in a location without Text-to-911 capabilities will result in a message saying there no such service available and to make a voice call to 911.
The Federal Communications Commission has been encouraging call centers across the country to utilize Text-to-911 but advises “because voice calls to 911 provide more information to 911 call centers, you should always make a voice call to 911 during an emergency whenever possible.”