Ada County residents are now able to send a text message to 911. We really hope people call 911 instead, but if that isn’t possible, text to 911 is now an option for the first time.
We’ve been working on adding text to 911 service in Ada County since the minute our employees moved into our state-of-the-art Emergency 911 Dispatch center in the summer of 2017.
Now that we have the appropriate technology to handle text to 911 — and all the major phone carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile) have tested the system and made sure it works in Ada County — we are live and ready to go.
We still encourage everyone to call 911 instead of sending a text if possible. The issue is our dispatchers need to know exactly where the emergency is happening. That is so vital, because they need to know exactly where to send resources (police, fire, ems, etc…)
If you have to send a text, be sure to include where you are or where the emergency is to the best of your ability. If you don’t, our dispatchers are going to have a hard time helping you.
Text messages to 911 work the same way cell phone calls do. We get location information from the nearest cell phone tower. That helps, but it is not exact and we can’t rely on it for accuracy.
Our dispatchers have been training for months on how to effectively communicate with people who send text messages to 911. We have developed a series of messages and responses to help our people get the appropriate info in the fastest way.
For instance, when someone texts 911, they get this immediate response:
“Ada County 911. If you can call 911 please do so. Otherwise, what is the address of our emergency?”
Text to 911 will be treated like any other 911 call. Dispatchers will respond by typing instead of talking, but the process is the same.
One thing our system can’t do at this time is process pictures or videos, so please don’t text them to us. So if you are driving down I-84 and see a four-car pileup, it doesn’t do us any good to text a picture. Emojis don’t show up, either. All texting to 911 needs to be in words.
Text to 911 does not work over the internet, either. You must text from a phone, as the info comes to us through the phone systems.
We’ve been working towards this for several years, and are very pleased to finally be able to offer additional 911 services.
Ada County is a big and complex place — so our staff put a ton of effort into making sure this system works for both our citizens and the 12 different public safety agencies that serve them.
Since our new center opened in 2017, our dispatchers have answered 310,562 911 calls and 581,473 non-emergency calls — and then dispatched all that info to the four law enforcement agencies, six fire departments, and emergency medical service groups who serve Ada County.
We then coordinate how those agencies will respond to a call —sending the right amount of resources to the right place at the right time. Our staff is now trained to interpret text to 911 and do the same thing, adding an extra layer of safety to our community.