WINCHESTER, Va. (WDVM) — Text to 911 is now live in the city of Winchester, but dispatchers say there are a few limitations with the new service residents need to know.
While the texting feature is useful for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, or are unable to speak, whether due to a medical emergency or because of a home invasion or domestic abuse situation, dispatchers say calling is ideal if possible in an emergency situation.
The service works best when users first text their location and are available to respond to follow up questions the dispatcher may have. Users should make sure to send brief but clear text messages, preferably without abbreviations. Emojis and pictures won’t go through to dispatchers, only text. Dispatchers also ask users to text in English only. Currently, language interpreting services are only available for 911 calls.
“You can’t just text from every phone. It does have to have a data plan with it,” said Erin Malloy, the director of emergency communications for the city. “And if you’re in a location or something happens and texting would go down, you would get back a bounce-back message that says to call 911.”
That bounce-back message will also come up if a user is in a jurisdiction that does not support the feature.
The city joins Frederick and Shenandoah counties in using the service. Other jurisdictions in Virginia are also moving toward text-to-911 features.