LAWRENCE, Kan. — Text-to-911 service is now available in Douglas County, Kansas for those who are unable to safely call 911. However public safety leaders still emphasize that calling 911 is the best option if available.

This applies to both dispatch centers in the county, the Douglas County Emergency Communications Center and the University of Kansas Dispatch Center.

“If someone can’t safely call 911 in an emergency, they do have the ability to text us, and we hope this can help more people experiencing dangerous circumstances,” ECC Director Tony Foster said.

Foster said because Douglas County has a large college student population, it might have a higher utilization of the service.

“There are situations where someone might not be able to talk on the phone, so texting an emergency dispatcher hopefully will result in them getting help quicker,” Foster said. “I think people will understand as they become more familiar with it that calling is always best, because dispatchers are skilled at asking follow-up questions, gathering information to help first responders and can work on keeping people calm until help arrives.”

The ECC shared the following tips for Text-to-911

• Call if you can, but text 911 if you can’t.
• Your phone plan must have a date or text plan.
• Text in simple words – do not use slang or abbreviations.
• At this time, messages must be in English.
• Provide your location and the nature of assistance you need, whether it’s police, fire or medical.
• Do not send group messages, pictures, videos, emoticons or emojis at this time.
• Do not end your call or power off your phone unless the dispatcher advises you to do so.
• Do not text and drive.
• Service is available for people who are deaf, deafened, hard of hearing, speech-impaired and nonverbal aphonic.