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Now You Can Text 9-1-1 In Emergencies

Robert Kuykendall
Flicker CC

People in New Hampshire can now send text messages to Nine-One-One if they are having an emergency.

The new service is meant to be used only when there is no other option, such as situations when calling would put an individual at risk.

“Call if you can, text when you can’t,” explains Michael Todd, spokesman for the NH Department of Safety.

The service will automatically identify the location of the cell phone down to an accuracy of 75 feet or so for most calls, but the location service isn't perfect and so operators will need more specific location information. Users are asked to type a brief message with their exact location, a brief description of the help they need, and then be prepared to answer questions.

“So there will be a back and forth interaction, in which the 9-1-1 call taker seeks further information if it’s needed,” says Todd.

Whenever calling is possible, the that remains the preferred way of getting assistance, since the dispatcher the information they need more quickly.

Group text messages, emoticons, pictures and video will all trip up the system, and Todd says the service will work best if people don’t use abbreviations or shorthand.

And of course, text to 9-1-1 is strictly for emergencies.

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. He shifted gears in 2016 and began producing Outside/In, a podcast and radio show about “the natural world and how we use it.” His work has won him several awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow awards, one national Murrow, and the Overseas Press Club of America's award for best environmental reporting in any medium. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.

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