(WTAJ) — Did you know that you can text for help to 911 in 59 of Pa’s 67 counties? The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) has been updating 911 dispatch centers for a few years now and most of the state is able to text for help.

Text-to-911 is a program that allows people to text 911 if they’re not able to call for any reason. Just as in a voice call, the 911 telecommunicator will continue to ask more questions about your emergency – confirming your location, the people involved, and any other details that are important to responders.

Typing questions and answers back and forth with a 911 telecommunicator takes a considerable amount of time, so please be patient and be as clear and concise as possible with your answers. For this reason, PEMA recommends placing the actual phone call.

Text-to-911 may be most helpful in these emergency situations:

  • By individuals who have speech or hearing impairments, or who are having a medical emergency that renders them incapable of speech;
  • Instances when making noise may endanger the caller, such as a home invasion/robbery, or instances of domestic violence or an abduction.

If you’re able to talk, you’re urged to dial 911 instead of texting.

Adding Somerset:

Somerset County was the only county in our viewing region in a waiting status when 2022 came around, but officials say it’s now fully operational for all carriers. This means all 10 counties that WTAJ covers for news are able to text 911.

“The safety of residents and visitors in Somerset County is our number-one concern,” said Brad Lavan, Somerset 911 Coordinator.

“Text to 911 could be a life-saver, especially for people who might otherwise not be able to make a voice call. The Somerset County Department of Emergency Services administrative staff and our frontline telecommunicators have done a great job in getting this service established, training on the new system, and making it available for our residents.”

Somerset joined the group in March and as of March 31, only 8 counties are unable to text 911 or are in the process of upgrading systems.

PA Text-to-911 Status Map

How to Send a 911 Text Message

  • Step 1:  Create a new text message or conversation
  • Step 2:  Type 911 in the “To” or “Recipient” field
  • Step 3:  Describe your location: Include the address and municipality (township or borough)
  • Step 4:  Describe the situation: Include what type of emergency help is needed
  • Step 5:  Send the text message

Text-to-911 is an important tool to enhance communications with the public in an emergency, but it has many limitations. It’s important to keep these things in mind:

  • A text or data plan is required to place a text to 911.
  • Text-to-911 conversations cannot include more than one person. Do not send your emergency text to anyone other than 911.
  • Do not use abbreviations or emojis.
  • Voice calls are real-time communication and Text-to-911 is not. As with all text messages, text messages to 911 may take longer to receive, may get out of order, or may not be received at all.
  • 911 call takers will not be able to hear any background noise that could help with assisting during the emergency.
  • Location information will be limited to the cell tower that your cell phone is communicating through. A 911 telecommunicator won’t automatically know where you are.

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