We still suggest picking up the phone and calling 9-1-1 if you've got a dire emergency. But as of this week, Verizon and T-Mobile customers in Harris and Fort Bend counties can text 9-1-1.
According to the Greater Harris County 9-1-1 Emergency Network, text-to-9-1-1 can be a lifeline in cases where it's too dangerous to talk, for people with disabilities who can't make a voice call, or for "a medical emergency that renders a person incapable of speech." Time to break out that choking-on-smoke-while-my-house-burns-down emoji.
The network cautions that voice calls are still the best and fastest way to reach emergency responders. But Sonya Clauson with Greater Houston 9-1-1 says, "Basically the whole 9-1-1 industry is working toward what we call 'next-generation' 9-1-1 technology." In the not-too-distant future, you might be able to text en-route firefighters a video of a blaze so they have an idea of what they're in for before arriving. Or, Clauson says, someone on-scene could text ambulance responders photos of injuries or wounds so they can gauge the gravity of a situation.
"This technology is in it's infancy, we're in our first stage, but we think it will save lives," Clauson said. The greater Houston network plans to have AT&T and Sprint online with the service by next month.
Also, just like you shouldn't drunk dial 9-1-1, don't drunk text, either. "It is a crime to text or call 9-1-1 with a false report," the network warns. "Prank texters can be located."
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