Beginning today (March 1, 2016), Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile customers living in or traveling through the KaneComm 9-1-1 Public Safety Communications System service area may be able to use their mobile phones to send a text message to 9-1-1 for emergency help. The city of Aurora Police Department announced Tuesday that it has launched a similar program.
KaneComm serves the villages of Wayne, Gilberts, Hampshire, Maple Park, Pingree Grove, Campton Hills, South Elgin, and all unincorporated areas of Kane County served by the Kane County Sheriff’s Office.
In situations in which someone is hearing impaired or has a medical emergency that renders them unable to speak — or in instances when the victim’s safety would be jeopardized if they tried to make a voice to 9-1-1 call — the text to 9-1-1 service can be a lifesaver.
There are important parameters to keep in mind before sending a text to 9-1-1:
Only use text when calling is not an option.
- Making a voice call is still the most efficient way to get access to emergency services. As with any communication to 9-1-1, the texting function should only be used for emergency situations. Emergency situations require a response from police, fire department and/or emergency medical services.
There are some limitations.
- Because of limitations of text message routing, location of the individuals texting to 9-1-1, not all text messages from customers within our service area will be routed to KaneComm. If text to 9-1-1 service is not available, the user will receive a text message that the 9-1-1 Call Center is unavailable for text and to call 9-1-1 for an emergency.
Always include location.
- Text messages should always include clear location information with the first text message sent to 9-1-1, along with the nature of the emergency. Unlike 9-1-1 voice calls, telecommunicators will not be able to determine location information for a customer sending a text message to 9-1-1, nor will they be able to speak with the person sending the text to quickly ascertain their location.
Very seldom is an announcement made that introduces new technology to a community that is followed with a plea not to use it unless absolutely necessary. But that is exactly what is occurring with the notice that text to 9-1-1 service is now available in Aurora, Police Chief Kristen Ziman says.
“Texting emergency calls to 9-1-1 should only be used when making a voice call is not possible due to a speech or hearing impairment or if the caller’s physical safety would be in jeopardy if they made a traditional 911 call,” Ziman said in a city of Aurora news release. “The limitations of texting to 9-1-1 make using it a last resort. As with all text messages, text to 9-1-1 communications can take longer to receive, can get out of order, or worse yet, may never be received.”
Ziman underlined, however, that in situations in which someone is hearing impaired or has a medical emergency that renders them unable to speak — or in instances that include home invasions, abductions, or similar crimes where the victim’s safety would be put in peril if they tried to make a voice to 911 call — the service can save your life.
“The best rule to remember is, ‘Call if you can, text if you can’t,’ ” Ziman said.
How to Use Text 9-1-1
If you find yourself in a situation where you must summon emergency help by texting, Aurora police are offering these important tips:
- Enter the numbers “9-1-1” in the “To” field;
- The first message should be brief and include the location of the emergency and type of help needed;
- Push the “Send” button;
- Be prepared to answer follow-up questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 operator;
- Text in simple words and do not use abbreviations;
- Do not include file attachments such as still photos or video and audio clips;
- And keep text messages brief and concise.
Officials stress that communicating with 9-1-1 by phone is always the most efficient because the communication is instant, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency. Using text in emergency situations takes longer because the text must be typed, sent through the wireless system, and then read by the 9-1-1 operator, who then texts back. Pictures or video cannot be added to a text to 9-1-1 message and doing so will likely cause the entire message to not be delivered.
Other parameters users you keep in mind before placing a text to 9-1-1 include:
- Text to 9-1-1 is being introduced on a community-by-community basis. Just because it is available in Aurora does not mean it is functional in surrounding locations. If text to 9-1-1 service is not available, the user will receive a message saying so and that 9-1-1 must be contacted by other means. Those working in or traveling through other cities and towns should verify if those locations have the capability to send and receive 9-1-1 texts.
- Users must be in range of cell towers in the Aurora area. Those outside or near the City’s fringes may not reach the Aurora 911 Center. The service is not available to users who are roaming.
- A text or data plan is required to place a text to 911.
- Texts sent to 911 have the same 160 character limit as other messages.
- Text to 911 cannot include more than one person. Do not send emergency texts to anyone except 911.
- Texting to 911 should be for emergencies only — those that pose an immediate threat to life or property. Non-emergency issues must be addressed by calling the Aurora Police non-emergency line: 630-256-5000.
- Do not text and drive.
Kane County Emergency Communications (KaneComm) is a multi-jurisdictional dispatch center responsible for the deployment of several police, fire, and medical agencies located within Kane County. KaneComm personnel are tasked with all of the incoming emergency and non-emergency calls for assistance from citizens residing in these jurisdictions. Subscribers to KaneComm include the Kane County Sheriff’s Office, police departments from Wayne, Gilberts, Hampshire, Maple Park, Pingree Grove, Campton Hills, Fox Valley Park District, Kane County Forest Preserve District and South Elgin, and the fire districts of Burlington, Hampshire, Maple Park, Pingree Grove, Fox River, Big Rock and Kaneville. For more information, visit the KaneComm web page.
Other 9-1-1 Agencies in Kane County
- TRI COM CENTRAL, dispatches for:
- St. Charles Police/Fire/Emergency Medical Services
- Geneva Police/Fire/Emergency Medical Services
- Batavia Police/Fire/Emergency Medical Services
- Elburn Police/Fire/Emergency Medical Services
- Sugar Grove Police/Fire/Emergency Medical Services
- Waubonsee Cadets
- North Aurora Fire/Emergency Medical Services
- AURORA CENTRAL dispatches for:
- Aurora Police/Fire/Emergency Medical Services
- North Aurora Police
- QUAD COM, dispatches for:
- Carpentersville Police/Fire/Emergency Medical Services
- West Dundee Police/Fire/Emergency Medical Services
- East Dundee Police/Fire/Emergency Medical Services
- Sleepy Hollow Police
- South Barrington Police
- Rutland Fire/Emergency Medical Services
- Barrington Hills Police
- ELGIN POLICE DEPARTMENT, dispatches for:
- Elgin Police/Fire/Emergency Medical Services
- South Elgin Fire/Emergency Medical Services