Virginia Beach to launch Text to 911 later this month

Posted at 7:48 PM, Apr 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-01 19:48:50-04

Virginia Beach, Va. (WTKR) - Soon people in Virginia Beach will be able to send a text message to 911 to get help during an emergency.

The city will launch Text to 911 on Monday, April 13, 2015.

"It will be the ability for people to actually use traditional SMS text messages and send them directly to 911," Josh Nelson with Virginia Beach Emergency Communications & Citizen Services told NewsChannel 3's Todd Corillo.

Virginia Beach has been working on implementing the program for the past year and a half.

They will be the second in the region to offer the service behind York County which launched their program in 2012.

"The main advantage of text to 911 is that it allows us to provide access to people who have a speech or hearing impairment – they don’t have the same access when using a mobile device to contact 911," Nelson explained.

The added benefit is that a text can be also be an alternative method of reaching 911 when a voice call might put the caller in danger.

Virginia Beach 9-1-1 will be able to receive texts from all four nationwide wireless carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

Other carriers can be added as their systems become available for the service.

While the new technology will expand services, a voice call remains the preferred method for getting help during an emergency.

"The speed with which we can process a text call – it’s just not going to be as fast as a voice call unfortunately because it just takes more time to interact and get the necessary information to send you assistance," Nelson commented.

Virginia Beach has adopted the motto "Call if you can, Text if you can't" for the program.

Employees in Virginia Beach have gone through extensive training on the new system.

Virginia Beach Text to 911 Frequently Asked Questions