News Release - Mayor Thomas S. Richards, County Executive Maggie Brooks and Emergency Communications Department Announce “Text to 9-1-1”

City of Rochester

News Release

(Wednesday, July 17, 2013) – Mayor Thomas S. Richards, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks and John Merklinger, Director of the City of Rochester/County of Monroe Emergency Communications Department, joined representatives from Verizon Wireless, TeleCommunication Systems Inc., today to announce “Text to 9-1-1,” a new option for Verizon customers who need to contact 9-1-1. Representatives from the Rochester Chapter Hearing Loss Association of America, Rochester School for the Deaf and Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) attended the press conference.

Verizon Wireless customers in Rochester and Monroe County can now send a short message service (SMS) text message to 9-1-1 for emergency help when they are unable to make a 9-1-1 voice call. This service will initially be available to any Verizon Wireless customer within range of a cell tower in Monroe County.

“Because Rochester is home to a large community of deaf and hard of hearing residents, it is essential that emergency dispatchers are able to communicate quickly in an emergency situation,” said Mayor Richards. “Text to 9-1-1 is an innovative and inclusive public safety service that will aid those in need by providing efficient communication with 9-1-1--when every second counts.”

“Public safety is government’s most important responsibility,” said County Executive Maggie Brooks. “By working together with public and private sector partners, we've ensured that customers of Verizon Wireless can now reach emergency help when it really matters, regardless of their ability to make a voice call.”

Text to 9-1-1 is intended primarily for use in two emergency scenarios: for an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing; and for a person who is unable to make a voice call, for example during a medical emergency that renders the person incapable of speech, or in the instance of a home invasion or abduction.

“The safety of residents and visitors in Monroe County is our number-one concern,” said Emergency Communications Department Director John Merklinger. “Text to 9-1-1 could be a life-saver, especially for people who might otherwise not be able to make a voice call. I congratulate my team members for their work in establishing this service and for setting an example for other public safety professionals in taking this significant step to make Text to 9-1-1 available more broadly.”

“Verizon Wireless and TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. (TCS) have been at the forefront of working with public safety stakeholders to bring Text to 9-1-1 to our customers,” said Richard Craig, director of engineering for Verizon Wireless. “The SMS911 National Gateway enables us to bring reliable emergency communications to public safety answering points across the country. We are proud to work alongside the team in Monroe County and TCS, to deploy this new solution.” The Verizon Wireless SMS911 National Gateway will be delivered to Monroe County via a web browser solution known as GEM911™ .

Important Information for Verizon Wireless Customers in Monroe County:

• Customers should use the texting option only when calling 9-1-1 is not an option.

• Using a phone to call 9-1-1 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency.

• Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since the Communications Center will receive only an approximate location of the cell phone, and will not be able to speak with the person sending the text. Text abbreviations or slang should never be used so that the intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible.

• Customers must be in range of cell towers in Monroe County. If customers are outside or near the edge of the county, the message may not reach the Emergency Communications Department.

• Texts sent to 9-1-1 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.

• Verizon Wireless customers who use Usage Controls should remove this feature to ensure full text to 9-1-1 capabilities.

• Verizon Wireless customers must have mobile phones that are capable of sending text messages.

• The texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire or emergency medical services.

• Text messages should only be used to communicate between 911 Center and the sender. Pictures, video, other attachments or including other recipients are not able to be accommodated.


News Media: For more information, contact Emergency Communications Department Director John Merklinger at 528-2207.