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Sheriff's Office News Releases

Osceola County Implements 911 Texting

PUBLISHED:Mon November 30, 2015

Osceola County, Florida – Osceola County is the first jurisdiction in Central Florida and the 8th county in Florida to implement 911 texting. Effective immediately, residents in any part of Osceola County, including the cities of Kissimmee and St. Cloud, can contact local law enforcement and fire rescue by sending a text message from their wireless phone. The Sheriff’s Office worked in conjunction with the Kissimmee and St. Cloud dispatch centers to ensure all text messages are received regardless of where the caller is in the county.

The system works by allowing individuals with a text-capable wireless phone to send a message to “911.” A dispatcher will receive the message and begin a text conversation with the individual until law enforcement or fire rescue arrives on scene. It works similar to an individual calling 911 and staying on the phone with the dispatcher until help arrives.

Currently, only 5% of the nation’s 6,500 emergency dispatch centers are equipped to receive and respond to emergency text-to 911 messages. In 2014, the Federal Communications Commission required all U.S. Carriers and makers of some texting applications to provide emergency texting with their services, but the FCC does not regulate the nation’s emergency dispatch centers. Instead, centers are regulated locally by 3,200 different state, counties and cities. In Florida, 7 counties have implemented the new system and many more are working with carriers to begin the program. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office has worked with all four major carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, to ensure the system will function properly prior to its implementation. Annually, the program costs $66,000 and is paid for utilizing state 911 funds.

“Texting is an effective way for citizens to report emergency situations, when making a voice call is not an option. There is no difference in the response by using this method to communicate with a dispatcher,” stated Sheriff Hansell.

“Osceola County has taken the forefront by going ahead and implementing this new Text-to-911 System. We think this is going to be a great benefit for certain portions of our community; however, we want to encourage citizens to use Text-to-911 only in instances in which they are unable to call or talk to a 911 Operator, so remember call if you can, text if you can’t!” said Chief of Police Pete Gauntlett. “Text-to-911 will give us another opportunity to bridge the gap between ourselves and the community and for people who are reluctant to call 911, another tool to communicate with us”.

“The Kissimmee Police Department is excited to offer this new service to our citizens, though verbal communication with 9-1-1 operators should still be the primary means of reporting emergencies when possible. This technology will benefit our citizens who are hearing impaired. Offering an alternative to their traditional means of reporting an emergency,” said Chief Lee Massie.

As more agencies add this feature to their 911 capabilities, a nationwide effort has been implemented by the 911 National Education Campaign which encourages citizens to “Call If You Can, Text If You Can’t.”