Starting July 1, residents of Cuyahoga County can text 911 in the case of an emergency.
The program, hosted by NENA: The 9-1-1- Association, was put into place to provide residents with another tool to use to contact emergency services.
Now, instead of dialing 911 as a call, users can type '9-1-1' into the area they would normally type a contact name when sending a text message. Once a user hits send, the text is sent to the Cleveland dispatch center.
Any texts received from suburbs outside of the city of Cleveland will be forwarded along to the Cuyahoga Emergency Communications System.
Although this capability is now available, residents are still encouraged to call into the emergency dispatch center whenever possible.
Texting will not become the dispatch center's primary form of communication.
“If you can call, you have to call. That's imperative," said Mary Louise Madigan, director of communications for Cuyahoga County. "We’re not adding dispatchers. We’re just trying to have another tool available in the case of an emergency.”
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), approximately 1,000 of the 6,000 emergency dispatch centers nationwide can accept text messages.
As the technology becomes more popular, the FCC updates a monthly registry of dispatch centers with the technology available. The FCC also requires wireless carriers to send an automatic 'bounce-back' message to users who try to text 911 in an area where it is not available.