Beginning today, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon customers living in or traveling through the Northwest Central Dispatch System service area may be able to use their mobile phones to send a text message to 911 for emergency help.
It is the first 911 communications center in Illinois to accept text 911 messages, which officials say is especially important for residents with speech or hearing impairments.
Northwest Central Dispatch System serves Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Mount Prospect, Palatine, Schaumburg, Streamwood, Prospect Heights and Rolling Meadows.
Officials say texting 911 should be an option only when calling is not possible. A voice call is still the most efficient way to access emergency services, they say.
Texts should include clear location information with the first message, along with the nature of the emergency. Unlike voice calls, emergency personnel will not be able to determine location, nor will they be able to speak with the person sending the text to quickly ascertain their location. Abbreviations and slang should not be used.
If a text to 911 is not answered in a timely manner, customers should not hesitate to make a voice call to 911.
More information regarding Text to 911 can be found on the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) website, www.nena.org and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website, www.fcc.gov.