911 Text Service Officially Launches

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You can now text 911 in an emergency, as city officials announced the official launch of the new system on Tuesday.


The Text to 9-1-1 system here is the first in the state, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said. The option is meant for times when calling isn’t possible or safe, as the system’s slogan — “Call if you can, text if you can’t” — suggests.


Michael Spencer, emergency communications administrator, said the main drivers of the new system were the deaf, hard of hearing, and speech impaired communities. Spencer said the new system will give them equal access to 911.


Strickland said the service is vital for those communities who “really could not take part in the other system we had. It’s really important to serve all Memphians and I’m proud of that fact.”


The system has been live for a couple of weeks as it underwent testing and operators were trained, Spencer said. It’s currently only available in English, but Spencer said the department is working to expand to other languages.


“The system is already paying dividends,” Spencer said citing a 911 text made last night by someone in a domestic dispute. “We were able to get the information we needed and get first responders there.”


The new text system is “another step in our improved service to Memphis,” Strickland said.


Other efforts to improve the system have included decreasing the 911 wait time from just under a minute to fewer than six seconds. Strickland said the next step is to fill the 23 job vacancies at the emergency communications center.

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