Texting 911 for Help Now Available in Minnesota

December 05, 2017 06:53 PM

In an emergency, 911 is your go-to number. But if you can't call, for safety reasons or at all, you can now text 911 and ask for help. State leaders announced this in St. Paul on Tuesday morning. 

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"Imagine having to hide from an intruder in your bedroom closet or witnessing a domestic violence situation. Text-to-911 is a lifeline for people who would put themselves in harm's way if they called 911, said Jackie Mines, the director of the Department of Public Safety's Emergency Communication Networks. "Speaking with a dispatcher is still the fastest way to receive help, so call if you can, text if you can't."

The addition of Text-to-911 will also help people with hearing loss. Until Tuesday, deaf Minnesotans have gone without a direct way to communicate with 911 centers.

"We are really excited to be able to help this group of people, who've had to use other resources in the past to contact 911," explained Supervising Deputy Jason Lukovsky, who oversees 911 Communications for St. Louis County.

If you need to text 911, put 911 in the "To" field. Then in the message area, type your exact address and what your emergency is. Then send the message. A dispatchers will ask if you can call 911 to follow up, since they prefer that method of getting information in an emergency.

"We're still encouraging people to call if you can, text if you can't," Lukovsky added. Those 'can't' situations might include a home invasion where you're hiding in your home, a violent domestic situation, a suicidal situation, or a kidnapping. "They don't happen often, but they do happen."

He told us that dispatchers didn't need additional training, as the texts come into their computer system.

The state suggests using simple words, but do not include abbreviations, emojis, pictures, or slang. Then make sure you can promptly answer questions and follow instructions. Also, do not text and drive.

Areas in the UP of Michigan have had text to 911 for a couple of years now. Seven counties in Wisconsin do as well, but none in our area.



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