PRPC implements Text to 911 service for 24 counties in Texas Panhandle

Texting to 911 for help is now available in 24 more counties of the Texas Panhandle thanks to Panhandle Regional Planning Commission (Drew Powell ABC 7 News)

People in need of help during an emergency can now use their cell phones to text to 911. The Panhandle Regional Planning Commission has made it possible for residents of 24 counties in the Texas Panhandle to text to 911. Potter and Randall Counties have had a similar program available for more than a year allowing people who are speech or hearing impaired to text to 911. When text to 911 is available in your area it should only be used when you are unable to make a voice call to 911.

“We would rather be rolling towards something as soon as possible,” said Loren Brand Carson County Sheriff. “The more time we have the more lives we save.”

“We have 23 call centers,” said John Schaumburg, PRPC 911 network geographic information systems manager. “We have two in Wheeler County and one in Swisher County that covers Briscoe County as well. The way it works is when someone send a text in a little window pops up that displays a message. The dispatcher responds back to the texter now they have an open line of communication.”

Law Enforcement agencies in the Texas Panhandle ask that if you contact 911 for an emergency to call. Only use the test to 911 if your personal safety is at risk if you are not hearing or speech impaired.

“This is a great option in case of an emergency where your being detained by somebody,” said Brian Thomas, Potter County Sheriff. “In the case of if you make a phone call and it’s going to harm you; then text.”

“Texting is not the absolute but it’s a big step forward for us,” said Brand. “We can communicate now with people who can’t otherwise call us by phone. With the current climate disasters are taking place. We need every option there is.”

Schaumburg tells ABC 7 News if people text in from anywhere in the 24 counties of the Texas Panhandle they must provide a location the text.

“The limitations on the text are location issues,” said Schaumburg. “We have the inability to obtain location information from a text, which is why as a state we adhere to the ‘Call if you can, Text if you can’t plan.’”

When sending a text to 911, you’re asked to keep it simple and provide a location and do not use acronyms, emoji’s, slang or hash tags. Texting to 911 is not available by all carriers so you will receive a bounce back message if it is not available in your area with your wireless carrier.

Keep in mind you should always make a voice call to 911 whenever possible for the quickest help.

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