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East Texas Council of Governments' Regional 9-1-1 Program has announced the availability of Text to 9-1-1 service in Anderson, Camp, Cherokee, Gregg, Marion, Panola, Rains, Upshur, Van Zandt and Wood Counties. Text to 9-1-1 is a service that allows citizens to send a text message directly to 9-1-1 for assistance in the event they are unable to make a voice call.

"To ensure the new service functions properly in our 9-1-1 district, our process was to drive the ETCOG region and test Text to 9-1-1 with the four major wireless carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon," said ETCOG's Director of Public Safety, Stephanie Heffner. "Once that process was completed, we conducted training with our 9-1-1 call centers. We are now making efforts to inform the public that Text to 9-1-1 is available for use."

To use the new service, users can simply send a text as they would normally. In the recipient field enter 911, compose the message and push send. Once a text is sent, the 9-1-1 system will send an automated message asking the individual texting for the address of the emergency. This starts the text session between 9-1-1 and the individual needing emergency help.

It is important to remember that text to 9-1-1 services should only be used in an emergency situation when someone is unable to speak. Examples include if the person is deaf, hard-of hearing, speech impaired, or when speaking out loud would put the individual in danger. Text to 9-1-1 also provides a silent alternative in cases such as a child abduction, active shooter or domestic abuse.

When texting 9-1-1, you need to know your exact location and the nature of your emergency. Use simple language and no abbreviations or slang. Please do not text and drive. Pull over to a safe location before sending a text to 9-1-1. If you are able, please call 9-1-1. It takes longer to get all the information when communicating through text messages.

Currently you can only text 9-1-1 with the four major wireless carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. If you are in an area where texting service is not available to 9-1-1, you will receive a 'bounce back' message telling you to make a voice call.

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