St. Johns County has joined a growing number of area counties offering the ability to text 911 in an emergency.
Clay and Alachua counties also offer the service.
"We hope this enhancement will certainly be beneficial to our deaf residents here in the community,” said Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan, with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office. “Beyond that, you may have a domestic violence situation where someone feels threatened, and they don't want to verbalize over the phone what the emergency is."
"Call if you can, text if you can't" is the theme for the new 911 service
By texting 911, people will be connected to an emergency operator who will respond via text message and send help without saying a word.
Officials acknowledged that, as with any technology, there could be some issues depending on a cellphone's level of reception.
"There is a slight lag time, but how it's dealt with in the comm center is exactly the same as any other 911 call,” Mulligan said. “Sirens will go off and announce that it's a 911 call, and the communications operators will deal with it the same way."
Since the text to 911 feature is so new, it only works with phones registered with AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint. Users don't have to download anything. Just text 911. But for a quicker response, be sure to text the location and a brief description of the emergency, if possible.
Deputies also want to emphasize that they will treat all 911 texts as an emergency.
"This is a 911 call, and we will be sending resources to you, so we ask that folks not play with the system,” Mulligan said. “We know a lot of folks may just want to test it to see if it works."
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is still in the works of implementing the 911 texting system in Duval County.