Merced Police Department announced on Wednesday its dispatch system can now receive text messages to 911.
Officials said police prefer a phone call to 911, but the text messaging system allows people to contact police when they can’t make the emergency call. The service may also be valuable to the deaf and hard of hearing, authorities say.
Other parts of Merced County have offered the service for several months.
The Merced Police Communications Center completed testing with the major network carriers in the area — AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and Xfinity mobile, according to a news release.
“The text-to-911 system is an integrated part of our new phone system,” officials said in the release. “Just as the 911 dispatcher answers a voice call, the text message will come directly to the dispatcher in the same way.”
Officials have said texting could come in handy in emergencies that could put a caller in danger or if the caller has a speech difficulty.
Domestic violence, an active shooter situation, abduction or medical conditions can all make a voice call difficult, according to authorities.
Police recommend that those using text messages use plain language without abbreviations or emojis. Dispatchers will need specific locations, including addresses if possible, according to officials.
The 911 user should also be prepared to answer follow-up questions via text from dispatchers.