SODA SPRINGS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Caribou County has launched a new Text-to-911 emergency message service, offering an option to people who cannot make a 911 voice call. It is available to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless wireless customers.
Sheriff Kelly Wells said the text service is not intended to replace traditional 911 voice calls, but to serve as an enhancement in certain situations.Those could include situations where a person is incapable of speech or when speaking out loud could put the caller in danger. It may also work better on the edge of cellular networks where there may not be enough signal for voice coverage.
The Sheriff's Office did offer the following advice:
• 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; the message must go over the network and the 911 Dispatcher must read the text and then text back.
• Providing detailed and exact location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since Caribou County 911 will initially only receive the location of the cell phone tower closest to the call's origin.
• Text abbreviations, emoticons or slang should never be used so that the intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible.
• Customers must be in range of cell towers in Caribou County. If customers are outside or near the edge of the county, the message may not reach Caribou County 911.
• Texts to 911 from areas where the service is not available will receive a "bounce back" message explaining that Text-to-911 is not available in that area, and to make a voice 911 call.
• Texts sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.
• Wireless customers who use Usage Controls should remove this feature to ensure full text-to-911 capabilities.
• 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 wireless carriers. 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. For non-emergency situations, customers should contact their local public safety agency via a 10-digit non-emergency number: 208-547-2563
• Out-of-Service cellphones will not be able to Text-to-911; there must be an active data plan for Text-to-911 to work.
• Misuse of 911, either calling or texting, is a misdemeanor in Idaho.
• Text-to-911 should only be used to communicate between emergency help and the texter. No pictures, video, other attachments, or other recipients can be appended to the message.