Very seldom is an announcement made that introduces new technology to a community that is followed with a plea not to use it unless absolutely necessary. But that is exactly what is occurring with the notice that text to 911 service is now available in Geneva.
Tri-Com Central Dispatch, which handles Geneva's emergency calls, said texting to 911 should only be used when making a voice call is not possible due to a speech/hearing impairment or if the caller's physical safety would be in jeopardy by making a traditional 911 call.
If someone finds themselves in a situation where they need emergency assistance from the Geneva Police or Fire departments by texting, remember these important tips:
• Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” field;
• The first message should be brief and include the location of the emergency and type of help needed;
• Push the “Send” button;
• Be prepared to answer follow-up questions and follow instructions from the 911 operator;
• Text in simple words and do not use abbreviations;
• Do not include attachments such as photos, videos or audio clips; and
• Keep the text messages brief and concise.
A text or data plan is required for this service, and texts to 911 have the same 160 character limit as other messages. The text message should only be sent to 911 in an emergency and should not include other recipients.
This new texting service can be a lifesaver for someone who is hearing/speech impaired or has a medical emergency that renders them unable to speak. Another potential use would be for a victim of a home invasion or abduction where the victim's safety would be put in peril if they tried to call 911.
Officials stress that talking with 911 by phone is the most efficient way to provide instantaneous communication during a life-threatening emergency. The limitations of texting to 911 make using it a last resort. As with all text messages, text to 911 communications can take longer to transmit, can be received out of order, or worse yet, may never reach their destination.
The best rule to remember is: Call 911 if you can, text if you can't.
FYI, the non-emergency phone numbers for the Geneva Police Department are 630-232-4736 and 630-232-2530 for the Geneva Fire Department.