Catherine Ross, NBC 5 Collin County Reporter
Some North Texans will be able to send a text message to report an emergency thanks to Text to 911. It's available to Verizon customers only in Wise and Collin Counties except for Plano and Wylie.
Some cellphone customers in parts of Wise and Collin counties can now contact 911 via text message.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments has launched the Text to 911 program for Verizon Wireless customers. It is available in cities with multi-county borders, such as Frisco and Sachse, but is yet rolled out in Plano, Wylie or Richardson.
Text to 911 serves two major populations people with hearing disabilities or who are unable to make a phone call because of circumstances such as a medical condition, a break-in, an abduction or a domestic violence incident.
"This is a service that, when it's not safe to speak, allows people to call 911," said Christy Williams, NCTCOG chief 911 program officer.
"You first say what the nature of your emergency is and your location," she said.
The dispatch operators that receive the texts cannot determine the sender's precise location. The program can only determine the nearest cell tower, so it's imperative for texters to send their precise location, Williams said.
In Frisco, where about 80 percent of 911 calls are made from mobile devices, dispatchers have been training to use the texting service for months.
Allen Mayor Steve Terrell said the system has been under discussion for years. He said he believes it will be useful in decreasing emergency response time.
"Whether it's a robbery in progress or a wreck, it'll make the response faster," he said.
Verizon is the only service provider currently committed to Text to 911.
AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have committed to providing the service by May 15 in areas where a call center is prepared to receive texts.
Currently, if a caller texts 911 from outside the area of service or through the wrong provider, a bounce-back message will be sent to that person’s phone, telling them their message was not received by emergency personnel.
The NCTCOG maintains that calling 911 is still the preferred method of communication.