Express Explains: How does Yolo County's new text-to-911 service work?

City and county officials last week trumpeted the launch of a new service allowing people to text emergency dispatchers instead of making a phone call.

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text messages in order to reach 911 via text,” Yolo County Spokesperson Beth Gabor said in an email to the Express. “There is no charge to the customer for sending a text to 911.” While the service is available throughout the county, officials warn that not all text messages sent to 911 will go to county dispatchers: The service uses a phone’s proximity to cellular transmission towers to determine which dispatch center a text is sent, Yolo 911 Operations Manager Leah Goodwin explained to the Express. If, for example, a text message is sent from within the city of Winters, that message should go straight to county dispatchers. But if a person is located closer to Interstate 505, that message will likely go to the California Highway Patrol, Goodwin said. The same situation is true for phone calls made to 911. Emergency officials also warn that, while the text-to-911 service is available in Yolo County, it may not be available in other parts of the state. Federal law requires 911 dispatch centers that are not equipped to handle emergency text messages to notify a sender immediately with a “bounce back” message instructing a person to call 911 instead. Officials also say that only certain messaging apps tied to the phone network is capable of sending messages to 911 and receiving a response. For Apple phones, the default Messages app should be used; for Android phone, whatever app a person uses to send messages to a phone number should be used. Messenger apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Kik are not able to send emergency messages to 911 on iPhones and may not be able to send them on Android devices. When possible, emergency officials say making a phone call is encouraged over a text. But the option to text is now there for people who can’t — including those pesky millennials.]]>

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