Text to 911 now available in Gwinnett County

Palm Beach County plans to soon implement a system that will allow cellphone users with emergencies to send text messages to 911. Chuck Spalding, the county's 911 director, said extensive tests are being done to insure that texting is integrated smoothly into the 911 system already in place. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

Another option for getting emergency help is available in Gwinnett County. You can now text 911 in addition to calling.

The Gwinnett County Police Department launched a new Text to 911 program June 1. The service is intended to make emergency services more available for those who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, cannot speak or is in a situation where it is not safe to call 911, according to a department release.

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The county police department also runs the 911 call center. City departments and county fire and emergency medical services receive emergency information from the county 911 center, so as long as your emergency is in Gwinnett County, the text option is available.

Calling 911 is still the most efficient way to report an emergency and ask for assistance, the department said. Texting 911 can have delays that do not come with calling, and translation services are not available via text. People who primarily speak a language other than English should call 911 in order to communicate in their primary language. The department also discourages the use of slang, abbreviations, emojis and special characters in order to ensure messages are understood properly.

Texts should contain the most important information and be kept to under 160 characters when possible, as they can get broken into multiple messages on the receiving end when they exceed that length, police said. Photos and videos cannot be received over text. If for any reason Text to 911 is not available, a message will be sent to indicate that and a call to 911 should be placed instead.

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