Being safe and being prepared when trouble is afoot is always a high priority at Castillo Law. Therefore, we wanted to give a shout out to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for bringing their 911 dispatch centers into the digital age and making them more accessible to those in dangerous situations and those with disabilities.
On April 2, 2018, MCSO announced their text-to-911 program is up and running, allowing users in Maricopa County to reach 911 operators via text. While users are still being encouraged to call 911 whenever possible, MCSO has provided the following information on how to use text to 911 if you find yourself in an emergency situation:
- Enter “9-1-1” in the “To” field
- Provide exact location & nature of the emergency in your initial message.
- Be ready to answer questions & follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.
- Avoid abbreviations or slang
- Keep messages concise
The motion to fund the program was unanimously approved by the Maricopa Association of Governments Regional Counsel in May of 2017. This was after a 2016 lawsuit charged the State and local governments with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, arguing those with disabilities did not have the same access to 911 service. Maricopa County is only the second location in Arizona to offer this text to 911 service – with Lake Havasu being the first. Though the Federal Communications Commission encourages dispatch centers to use text-to-911, it does not have the authority to force centers without these capabilities to upgrade them.
If you are outside of Maricopa County, or are not sure if text-to-911 is available in your area, you can check the master registry on the FCC’s official website. If you do attempt to send a text to 911 where text-to-911 service is unavailable, you should receive an immediate “bounce-back” message that text-to-911 is not available.