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Verizon users can now text 911 for emergency help

Verizon users can now text 911 for emergency help in Hamilton County.

The county Department of Communications says texted messages for help should only be used if someone is hearing or speech impaired or if you're unable to make a voice call like in the case of a home invasion.

“Insuring that residents and visitors in Hamilton County receive emergency assistance in the most
timely manner possible is our primary mission," says Communications Center Director Jayson Dunn in a release. "The ability to receive Text to 911 will be another tool that we have at our disposal. The benefit to people who cannot make a voice call will be tremendous."

The county says calling 911 is still the most efficient way to request emergency help.

If you do have to text for help, the agency recommends including location information because your phone's data will only provide an approximate location.

The timeline for expanding texting capability to all other mobile providers isn't certain.  But the four major carriers have an agreement with the FCC to make it available by May 15th.

More information from Hamilton County Department of Communications:

Verizon Wireless customers in Hamilton County should keep the following in mind if they send a text to 911: • Customers should use the texting option only when calling 911 is not an option. Using a phone to call 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency. It may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a Text to 911 situation because of the time involved. Someone must enter the text and then the message must go over the network and must be processed by the 911 telecommunicator’s phone screens. The telecommunicator must then read the text and respond through their phone screen. • Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since the Hamilton County 911 Center will receive only an approximate location of the cell phone, and will not be able to speak with the person sending the text. Text abbreviations or slang should never be used so the intent of the dialogue is as clear as possible. Customers must be in range of cell towers in Hamilton County Communications area. If customers are outside or near the edge of the county coverage, the message may not reach the Hamilton County 911 Center. • Texts sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages. Verizon Wireless customers who use Usage Controls should remove this feature to ensure full text to 911 capabilities. • Verizon Wireless customers must have mobile phones that are capable of sending text messages. The solution is available for customers who use the native SMS provided by Verizon Wireless. Customers should consult their over- the-top (OTT) messaging provider to determine if and how text-to-911 is provided by the OTT application. • The texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire or emergency medical services. Non-emergency issues should still be communicated to the Hamilton County 911 Center through its non-emergency line at 513-825-2280. • SMS911 should only be used to communicate between emergency help and the texter with no pictures, video, other attachments or other recipients appended to the message at this time.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.