LEXINGTON, S.C. — Lexington County has launched a text-to-911 service to help people who are hearing impaired or need to contact emergency services without making a phone call.
Nikki Rodgers, Chief of Communications for Lexington County, says they launched the new service starting last week.
"This will give the hearing impaired, the deaf community the option of texting us when they need assistance, but also if a citizen needs to text or need to contact 911 and they can't do so via the telephone, they can also text us instead of calling us," said Rodgers
The technology to text 911 has been around for several years. Lexington County has been setting up the program for the past five years.
County council approved the program to upgrade the emergency services technology. According to Rodgers, it doesn't cost citizens any money to use the texting service.
"We really think that with the technology and where it's going as far as the community being able to communicate with texting more and more, we really need to implement that in Lexington County 911 services," explained Rodgers.
The county has been working on training employees to operate the service and get the word out to the public about how it works.
They have also been testing the system to make sure they can locate citizens when they contact 911 for an emergency.
“If you text 911 just like you would text anyone else, you open up your texting app and then you type 911 into where you want your message to go," said Rodgers. "You don't use any spaces you don't use any dashes, it's just 911, and then you type the nature of your emergency, and then give us your exact location.”
A dispatcher may ask someone for additional information if they don't know exactly where they are located. Officials ask people do not use slang or emojis when communicating with the 911 service.
While emergency officials prefer folks call 911, dispatchers will communicate with you back and forth through texts to make sure they have everything they need for the emergency.
“I think they'll get emergency services quicker, even it for the, especially for the deaf and hearing impaired, that group of citizens that need us, sometimes they have to use different services or relay service or a different form of communication, just to be able to get the services they need, but now they can text us directly and we can get them those services faster.“