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Wireless text-to-9-1-1 now available in South Dakota

As part of an initiative to upgrade and update, South Dakota launched a new option for contacting emergency services, Text-to-911.
Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 3:14 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Imagine being in a situation where calling 911 would put you in more danger.

Now there’s an option to contact emergency services while staying discrete.

As part of an initiative to upgrade and update, South Dakota launched a new option for contacting emergency services, Text-to-911.

“If you were to call 911, your text message will go to the same place and it will be the same people receiving that message,” said Craig Price, cabinet secretary for the South Dakota Department of Public Safety. “So, it goes to the dispatcher that would otherwise be on the end of the phone, he or she is now just sitting at the computer monitor, it rings, you can see it pop up on the screen just like you would an email or any other message that you get on your computer.”

Text-to-911 officially rolled out Monday but has been tested across the state for the last few months.

Although the South Dakota Department of Public Safety says calling is best, there are situations where the new option will be beneficial.

“Home invasions or kidnapping situations, things like that, where talking might endanger the victim or endanger somebody else,” said Ted Rufledt, deputy director of technology for Pennington County Dispatch. “So having text to 911 as an option is a good public safety enhancement.”

The system is simple; create a message to 911, explain your emergency, and hit send.

Although this option is for any and every one, Rufledt said there’s a demographic Text-to-911 will help the most.

“I think it’s really going to be a big plus for the deaf and mute and hard of hearing community,” said Rufledt. “They sometimes, unless they’re at home, they’ve had a tough time sometimes communicating with us in an emergency. So this gives them another tool and I know we’re really going to market it to them and help educate and make sure they’re aware of it.”

Text-to-911 is available across the state, except in Todd County.

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety said that area should be ready to go soon and that it was important to get this option out as soon as possible to as much of the public as possible.

Text-to-9-1-1 is now available throughout South Dakota.

Wireless cell phone customers in South Dakota can text to 9-1-1 when they can’t call in an emergency. The text, like a phone call, will be routed to a local 9-1-1 dispatch center.

“Text-to-9-1-1 should only be used in an emergency when you can’t call 9-1-1,” said Craig Price, cabinet secretary for the South Dakota Department of Public Safety. “The Text-to-9-1-1 option would be good to use if speaking out loud would put the caller in danger or if the caller is deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech impaired.”

Text-to-9-1-1 is not yet 100 percent activated in Todd County. People texting 9-1-1 in that county will receive a message stating that text service is unavailable and they will be directed to make a 9-1-1 call instead.

People who are unable to call 9-1-1, should remember these steps about Text to 9-1-1:

  • Don’t text and drive.
  • In the first text message, send the location and type of emergency.
  • Text in simple words; keep the text message short without the use of abbreviations or slang.
  • Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.
  • Voice calls to 9-1-1 are still the best and fastest way to contact 9-1-1.
  • Call 9-1-1 if you can, text if you can’t.

For more information on the Text to 9-1-1 program in South Dakota, visit text911sd.com.

The state 9-1-1 Coordination Program is part of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

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