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The original item was published from 8/1/2023 3:07:00 PM to 8/1/2023 3:10:08 PM.

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Fire & Rescue

Posted on: August 1, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Text-to-911 if you can’t speak during an emergency

Text overlay of Text to 911 on image of man holding phone

RCECD launched the Text-to-911 service for emergencies in Rutherford County

  • A human trafficking victim can’t risk calling 911 for help so she waits until the trafficker sleeps and quietly texts 911.
  • A domestic violence victim fears for her life but is scared to alert her attacker so she texts 911.
  • A 16-year-old at home alone hears someone breaking into the home and texts 911.
  • A hearing and speech-impaired resident experiences a medical crisis and texts 911. 

"People should text 911 while experiencing a situation when speaking may put the caller in danger or they are unable to speak", said Director Cassie Lowery of the Rutherford County Emergency Communications District.

RCECD launched the Text-to-911 service for emergencies in Rutherford County so callers may text their location and communicate with dispatchers when they cannot talk.

Dispatchers for Murfreesboro, Smyrna, La Vergne and Eagleville Police and Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Medical Services will respond to the texts.

RCECD Assistant Director Buster Brown said texting must be reserved for emergencies only when the caller is unable to speak.
“Call if you can, text if you can’t,” Brown said.

Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh chairs the Emergency Communications Board.  “Text-to-911 is a crucial tool adding to our 911 center to help people reach us through any means possible when they need help,” Fitzhugh said. “We continue to look for new and innovative ways to help the people we serve.”

Sheriff’s Dispatcher Jenny Mathias explained people who can’t speak can simply text 911 on their cell phones. Texts show up in the dispatch center with the approximate location of the caller’s phone. “Text-to-911 is just as easy as sending a text message,” Mathias said. “The caller can literally text back and forth with the dispatcher.”

Also, parents can teach their children to text 911 in case of an emergency when they can’t talk, she said.

Murfreesboro Emergency Communications Director Seth Russell said “Text-to-911 provides a valuable alternative for citizens to get help during emergencies when they can't make the call. It allows individuals to quickly and discreetly communicate with 911 dispatchers."

Jamie Geiselman, Smyrna Police Telecommunications manager, said the Smyrna Police and Fire Communications Division is equipped to take citizens' emergency calls via text.

“We strongly advise anyone to call 911 in the event of an emergency as this is the fastest way to intake information and relay it to first responders,” Geiselman said. “The text option should only be used as a last resort, due to safety reasons, or by those of the hard of hearing/deaf communities.”

Smyrna Police Chief Jason Irvin said implementing the capacity for citizens to text 911 for assistance enhances the Smyrna dispatchers and officers' ability to help someone in need or in danger. “We welcome any new advancement that offers additional safety for our citizens,” Irvin said.

Interim La Vergne Police Chief Brent Hatcher said the advancement in this technology will be an asset to the county moving forward. “Implementation of this text system will allow us to better communicate with those in life-threatening situations when they are not able to talk to us,” Hatcher said.

Eagleville Police Chief David Breniser, as board member and treasurer of the RCECD has been a supporter of the Text-to-911 program during its development.  He feels this is another great tool for the public to communicate with public safety personnel when a phone call is not possible.  

Communications Supervisor Suzie Cunningham of the Emergency Medical Services said they serve as a secondary public safety answering point where calls are transferred from law enforcement agencies. “We definitely think Text-to-911 is a valuable resource for the community,” Cunningham said.

If there is an emergency and you are unable to make a call, remember these steps:

  • Don't text and drive.
  • In the first text message, send the location and type of emergency.
  • Text in simple words. 
  • Send a short text message in English without abbreviations or slang.
  • Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.

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