By: Donna Devita
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When it comes to emergency situations, it’s not always possible to make a phone call for help. In June of 2009, all eyes were on Connecticut when FOX 61 employee, Alice Morrin, was killed in a domestic dispute while on the phone with 911. Morrin had attempted to text a friend multiple times to dial 911 for her after her husband threatened her with a gun but it was taking too long to hear back from the dispatcher. Despite her dangerous situation, Morrin reluctantly decided to call 911 herself and was tragically killed by her husband during the call.
In response to this horrifying incident, and many others similar in nature, Connecticut lawmakers began working on legislation that would make it possible for residents to reach emergency dispatchers by text when they were unable to call- the technology is finally here!
CT Residents Can Now Text 911!
Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced on Thursday that Connecticut residents will now have the option to text requests for help to 911 in addition to verbal calls. As a part of the new emergency communications system, residents who are not able to make a phone call due to dangerous circumstances or physical disabilities will be able to send brief messages to 911 in order to receive appropriate emergency services at their specific location.
Here are the steps residents will need to use the new texting system:
- Enter 911 into the “to” or “recipient” field in the text (saving it to your contacts is always the fastest method).
- Text a brief message including your location and which emergency services you require.
- Follow incoming directions from the dispatchers, responding as needed.
State lawmakers are calling the new system an enormous accomplishment but are still reminding the public that text messaging in emergency situations may not always be appropriate. All residents should be aware of both the pros and cons of the system’s capabilities so they know which method to use when contacting 911 in the future.
When To TEXT 911
Not every individual is able to physically call 911 when they are in danger, nor is it always the safest option. In the following situations, texting 911 would be far more beneficial than making a verbal call:
- Domestic Violence: In the case of Alice Morrin, many wonder if a text to 911 as opposed to a call could have saved her life. Victims of domestic violence often find themselves in situations where making a phone call is impossible and dangerous. By texting 911 instead, they can seek help in a more discrete manner that draws less attention or suspicion from their partners.
- Mass Shootings: Back in April 2007, 33 people were killed in the Virginia Tech University shooting. After the incident, it was reported that dozens of students and staff members hiding in silence sent texts to 911 pleading for help but the texts were never received since the 911 center could only accept voice calls. Texts to 911 would be extremely beneficial in the case of school attacks or mass shootings where victims are in silent hiding.
- Disabled Individuals: People with hearing or speech disabilities have difficulty conveying their emergency needs or following dispatcher instructions when making verbal phone calls. Texting will allow these individuals to provide accurate information about their emergency situation and have a better outcome when it comes to responding to advice from 911 dispatchers on emergency care.
- Witnesses of Violent Crimes: Sometimes, witnesses who call 911 in the middle of a crime can be pulled into the chaos. If someone is a witness to an ongoing crime where it may be unsafe to call 911, these residents can benefit from sending a few text messages for help as opposed to drawing extra attention to themselves by being on the phone.
Downfalls of Texting 911
Texting 911 is extremely helpful in dire situations but it can actually delay services for people that are capable of making a phone call. EfficientGov highlights the significant cons of texting 911 dispatchers that could prevent efficient emergency responses when they are needed the most:
- System Misuse: System misuse backs up 911 services and can delay the response time of help. In 2017, a study was released by the HeraldNet in Washington that showed hundreds of people were misusing emergency texting services. At least 94% of the emergencies that were texted in 2016 could have been handled over the phone, causing dispatchers to focus more time on deciphering text messages than providing quick service.
- Language Barriers: Interpreters are generally available to anyone who calls 911- not the case with texting. Translating technology can be used when necessary to try and figure out what the text message says when it is in a different language, but missing characters or incorrect online translations could cause a great deal of confusion and prevent first responders from arriving in a timely manner.
- Text Only: Some residents in cities that have already implemented 911 texting have reported trying to send videos and photo messages to help emergency dispatchers understand their situation better. Unfortunately, most of these are never received as the technology is not made to handle texts with any content but written words.
- Out of Service: You can call 911 at any time, but emergency texting is not always available. If you are out of a service area or your device is roaming, your emergency text could get delayed or declined completely, whereas an emergency call would have gone through.
- Delays: Even if your text message does make it through to 911, it can take several minutes for the 911 dispatchers to receive the text, decipher the message, and send back an appropriate response. Your particular cell phone provider could also slow down the process depending on how reliable the service is.
- Ineffective Emergency Advice: When you call a 911 dispatcher, the person on the other line can quickly give you safety instructions as to what to do in your emergency situation before help arrives. This information can not only be dangerously condensed within a text message but misinterpreted by the person on the other end, causing unnecessary injuries to become worse or fatalities to occur.
Call If You Can…Text If You Can’t
Emergency 911 texting services are going to change the lives of many Connecticut residents who have been unable to receive appropriate emergency services in the past. But if you are a resident who is physically and safely able to call 911, texting in the case of an emergency may cause you more harm. State officials want to remind all residents that calling 911 is still the best way to receive appropriate emergency services- don’t text if you don’t have to!
Our expert personal injury attorneys at Jacobs & Wallace are dedicated to protecting Connecticut residents who are wrongfully injured due to the negligence of others. With over 40 years of combined experience, our aggressive team is ready to fight back for your right to safety by seeking financial compensation for any damages suffered after your unnecessary accident. Contact us today for a free case evaluation to see how we can seek justice for you.