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Palm Beach County 911 Now Accepts Text Messages

Markus Spiske
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

People living in Palm Beach County have a new way to reach 911 in an emergency: by text message.

Anyone in the county with a cell phone can send a text to 911 describing their emergency. The message will immediately begin a text conversation with an operator - just like a call. LISTEN: Palm Beach County 911 Now Accepts Text Messages

“We will be able to text back and determine what the emergency is and get you the appropriate resources - police, fire, paramedics,” said Natalie Heneks, communications supervisor at Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

Officials say a call is best. But there are scenarios where the text capability could save a life.

The text option gives greater access to the deaf community.

“And there are several situations when your voice may give away your location and put you in a dangerous situation,” said Palm Beach County 911 coordinator Dan Koenig, “like a home invasion or a domestic violence incident.”

For those who do send 911 a text, it’s critical to include an exact location. Currently, the service only accepts messages in English.

Broward and Monroe counties expect to add 911 texting before the end of the year.

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Peter Haden is an award-winning investigative reporter and photographer currently working with The Center for Investigative Reporting. His stories are featured in media outlets around the world including NPR, CNN en Español, ECTV Ukraine, USA Today, Qatar Gulf Times, and the Malaysia Star.