Text to 911 now available

Published 1:57 pm Friday, June 12, 2020

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After several months of working to bring the ability to text 911 to the Farmville Police Department, the system is now online.

According to Communications Director Jackie B. Gilbert with Farmville Emergency Communications, all 911 centers in Virginia must have the ability to receive text messages on their 911 systems by July 1. 

This new service, that went online Tuesday, June 9, will be available for text messages sent from the Town of Farmville, Prince Edward County and the southern end of Cumberland County.

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“If there is an emergency and the caller cannot make a voice call to 911, they can text 911,” Gilbert said. “If the person is in the Town of Farmville, Prince Edward County or southern Cumberland, they will get a response that states, ‘You have reached Farmville VA 911, what is the address of your emergency?’ At that point, the caller should text the location and nature of the emergency to the dispatcher, so help can be sent. Once the text conversation is over, the texter will get a response that Farmville 911 has disconnected the text session and to call or text if there is an additional emergency.

“This technology will make it easier for the deaf, hard of hearing, and speech-impaired callers to reach emergency services without having to use antiquated devices or relay service.” 

Gilbert said a 911 grant assisted with the cost of upgrading the call handling equipment, which not only gives the department the ability to receive text messages but other forms of media in the future. 

Farmville Police Chief Andy Ellington said the new system and the changes that are being made at the emergency communication center have made it one of the best in the area.

“I couldn’t be prouder of her (Gilbert) efforts and where she is taking our 911 center,” Ellington said. “With her knowledge and years of experience, she continues to modernize our center, and has made it a state-of-the-art center, one of the best in Central Virginia.”  

Things to remember when using text-to-911:

• Text to 911 should only be used in emergency situations.

• Text in simple words: send a short text message without abbreviations, acronyms or emoji’s. Taking these steps will eliminate confusion and strengthen communication between you and the 911 operator.

• It’s a crime to text or call 911 with a false report. Prank callers and texters can be located and will be prosecuted.

• This service is not available everywhere in Virginia and the U.S.

• Remember, it is against the law to text and drive.