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When a woman in the back of a ridesharing vehicle realized her driver was impaired, she didn't want to alert the driver by calling 9-1-1. So she texted instead.

"My Driver is Drunk"
How Text to 9-1-1 is Saving Lives


Text to 9-1-1 LogoWhen a woman in the back of a ridesharing vehicle realized her driver was impaired, she didn’t want to alert the driver by calling 9-1-1. So she texted instead. 

In that case, the driver was pulled over and the woman got home safely. It is just one example of the thousands of text sessions taking place since Text to 9-1-1 capability went live in the Maricopa region on April 2, 2018. In fact, the system is averaging 400 texts a month, with 2,432 text sessions received in the first six months. Examples of other emergency texts include:

  • Hearing impaired wife sent text on non-breathing husband.
  • Girlfriend was assaulted and being held against her will.
  • Car accident with hearing impaired driver.   
  • Multiple domestic violence situations.

Because voice calling helps 9-1-1 dispatchers get the information they need more quickly, it is still the best option. But in certain situations, like those outlined above, texting is an alternative that can save lives.

“We still remind people, ‘Call if you can, text if you can’t,’” says Mayor Gail Barney, Regional Council chair. “It’s most important that those texting provide their location as quickly as possible, along with the nature of the emergency. We want people to know that they can’t group text or send images. However, we see great successes with the system and it is rewarding that people understand they can text 9-1-1 if necessary,” Barney said. 

In all, the Maricopa Region 9-1-1 system handled 3.1 million calls last year—about 74 percent of all emergency calls made in the state. In addition, the Community Emergency Notification System (CENS) had 94 activations in 2017, and 79 so far in 2018. This system is often referred to as “reverse 9-1-1,” meaning that public safety agencies call residents or businesses to notify them of an emergency situation taking place in their area.

Text to 9-1-1 Phone

How to text 9-1-1 in an emergency:

  • Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” field.
  • Always provide your exact location and the nature of the emergency in your initial message.
  • Push the “Send” button.
  • Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.
  • Avoid text abbreviations or slang (e.g. IDK THX, 2day, BTW).
  • Keep text messages brief and concise.
  • Only use text-to-9-1-1 for emergency calls.
  • Voice calling is always the best option, if you can safely do so. Remember: Call if you can, text if you can’t.

Published January 28, 2019

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