Voice in the Dark

Mikayla Lynch, a 911 dispatcher, answers the phones at the Plano Municipal Center. 

During Monday’s Plano City Council preliminary open meeting, Public Safety Communications (PSC) Department Director Susan Carr updated the council on the department and announced the city has fully launched Text to 9-1-1.

Carr said the service can cover many circumstances where a person who finds themselves in an emergency doesn’t have the ability to make a traditional voice call.

“While we were in soft launch, we actually received some true Text to 9-1-1 calls, and one of them was an asthma attack. If you can’t breathe, you can’t talk, so that’s a great opportunity to use Text to 9-1-1,” she said. “Also, if you have someone in your house and you’re afraid to talk or you don’t think it’s safe, that’s a good opportunity to use the Text to 9-1-1.”

The service can also be beneficial to residents who are hearing impaired.

Because SMS (short message service) does not provide accurate location data to dispatchers, Carr said it’s important that Text to 9-1-1 users provide their location right away. Additionally, photos, video and emojis cannot be accepted. Abbreviations and SMS language are discouraged to ensure clarity.

Carr said the department is encouraging residents to “Call if you can, text if you can’t.”

In her presentation, Carr said PSC will soon be replacing its 911 networks and services, and with the updates dispatchers will be able to receive photos.

“In the future as we move to a new network, we will be able to accept a picture of a car that just hit you and ran or something like that then pass those along to the first responder,” she said. “But we have to move to this new equipment to be able to do that.”

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