Story by Summer Sorg
Text-to-911 services will be made available in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area starting April 2, giving Maricopa County residents an additional way to contact emergency services.
“We understand that voice-calling 911 is not always possible and adding text capability is important,” said Liz Graeber, 911 administrator for Maricopa Region. “However, whenever possible, voice calls to 911 are still preferable. Voice calls to 911 will still be faster.”
The service will function like any other text message by typing 911 in the “To” field of any messaging app and adding your message. At this time, the service is only available in the area within the boundaries of Maricopa County and includes Apache Junction, but not Gold Canyon.
If your emergency text is outside the coverage zone, the large cellular carriers will send a bounce back message stating you are outside the coverage area. Smaller carriers may not.
Graeber explained there are still technological differences between voice-calling 911 and texting. “If you text, be prepared to give your location,” she said.
Cellular traffic does not include one’s location. “If you don’t know where you are, we can call you and get your mobile company to ping you, but that takes time.”
This leads to the second important difference. Text to 911 only works with a data plan, whereas any unattached cell phone with a charge can make a voice call to 911.
Summer Sorg is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication specializing in photography and digital journalism. Her heart lies in storytelling, nature and exploring. Summer plans to use her talents to highlight important issues and inspire people to care.