Text-to-911 emergency service now available in Panola County

You can now text 911 for emergency service when calling 911 is not feasible or safe.

Text-to-911 emergency service is now available in Panola County, the East Texas Council of Governments announced Monday.

The new text-to-911 service is now available in Anderson, Camp, Cherokee, Gregg, Marion, Panola, Rains, Upshur, Van Zandt and Wood Counites, the counties under ETCOG’s 911 district. ETCOG said Monday that all of the 14 counties in its service area should have text-to-911 service because of state regulations, but not all of those counties fall within ETCOG’s 911 district.

Text-to-911 is a service that allows a person to send a text message directly to 911 for emergency assistance in the event they are unable to make a voice call.

Text-to-911 service is available on the four major wireless carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. Those who try to text 911 in an area where texting service is not available will get a “bounce back” message saying they should make a voice call.

“To ensure the new service functions properly in our 911 district, our process was to drive the ETCOG region and test Text-to-911 with the four major wireless carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon,” ETCOG’s Director of Public Safety Stephanie Heffner said. “Once that process was completed, we conducted training with our 911 call centers. We are now making efforts to inform the public that Text-to-911 is available for use.”

To use Text-to-911, send a text as you would normally, with 911 in the recipient field. Once sent, the 911 system will ask the texter for the address of the emergency.

ETCOG said Monday it is important to remember that text-to-911 services should only be used in an emergency situation when someone is unable to speak — such as if a person is deaf, hard-of-hearing, speech-impaired or if speaking out loud puts the person in danger. Text-to-911 service can also be used in cases including domestic abuse, active shooter scenarios and child abductions.

When using the Text-to-911 service, you’ll need to know your exact location. ETCOG says to use simple language and no abbreviations or slang.

If possible, ETCOG says those in emergency situations should call 911 instead of text because it takes longer to get all of the information when communicating through text message.