People in Douglas County now have the ability to text 911 in situations where they are unable to safely call, the sheriff’s office announced Friday.
The Kansas 911 Coordinating Council began rolling out a Text-to-911 service in recent years. Tony Foster, director of the Douglas County Emergency Communications Center, said in a news release that because the county has a large college student population, it might have a higher utilization of the service.
“The Douglas County Emergency Communications Center recognizes this is an important service to offer in our community for those in need of help, but we also want to emphasize calling 911 should be the first resort,” Foster said. “If someone can’t safely call 911 in an emergency, they do have the ability to text us, and we hope this can help more people experiencing dangerous circumstances.”
Calling 911 if safely able remains the best option for emergency services, the release said. However, if you must text your emergency, do so in English and without slang, abbreviations, pictures or emojis. Inform the dispatch center of your location and the type of assistance you need — police, fire, or medical — and don’t turn off your phone unless the dispatcher advises you to do so, the release said.
“There are situations where someone might not be able to talk on the phone, so texting an emergency dispatcher hopefully will result in them getting help quicker,” Foster said in the release. “I think people will understand as they become more familiar with it that calling is always best, because dispatchers are skilled at asking follow-up questions, gathering information to help first responders and can work on keeping people calm until help arrives.”
Both dispatch centers in Douglas County, the Emergency Communications Center and the University of Kansas Dispatch Center, now have the text-to-911 capacity.