"Call if you can. Text if you can't." was the key message rolled out during a press conference April 2 as text to 911 service capability becomes available for the first time in the valley. If you are in imminent danger and unable to talk to a 911 operator, you now have the ability to text to 911. The service has gone live following months of collaboration between numerous public agencies and advocates for the disability community.
The launch of the service is the result of the collaborative efforts of the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), Maricopa Region 911 and other public agencies working with members of the disability community, the Arizona Center for Disability Law, and the National Association of the Deaf.
"Texting has become a very important means of communication and we are excited to bring this technology to 911 service following months of united efforts and leadership," said MAG Chair Jackie Meck, mayor of Buckeye. "This is a crucial alternative to a voice call when someone is in danger and can't talk out loud."
Voice calling is always the best option because texting does not automatically provide dispatchers with your location. It also doesn't work with group texts and language translations are not available (yet).
While calling is preferred, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton says texting capability may help save lives. "We're using technology to help individuals with disabilities, who may otherwise have difficulty connecting with first responders in an emergency," said Mayor Stanton. "This also is an invaluable service for those who are in a situation where it may be too dangerous to call 911."
"Technology often opens doors and makes life easier, and texting to 911 will allow people who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired to summon emergency services, report crimes, and summon aid for others, said Rose Daly-Rooney, Legal Director at the Arizona Center for Disability Law.
"Texting to 911 makes emergency services more accessible to the more than 150,000 Valley residents who are deaf, hard of hearing, Deaf Blind, or have speech difficulties," said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf. "Maricopa County and Phoenix are providing a model for the rest of the state and country in making their 911 services accessible to all."
MAG identified a solution to purchase the system necessary to make text to 911 a reality. The system was installed in December 2017 and public safety call center personnel have been being trained over the past several months to make this day possible.
Contact: Kelly Taft, Maricopa Association of Governments