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People in Maricopa County can now text 911 in case of an emergency

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LISTEN: Text your emergency to 911

PHOENIX — People can now use their cell phones to text their emergencies to 911 anywhere in Maricopa County.

“If you are in imminent danger and unable to talk to a 911 operator, you now have the ability to text 911,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said at a press conference Monday to announce the new feature.

Stanton said this is a “valuable tool” that will allow emergency responders to interact with people who can’t call 911, especially people with hearing or speech disabilities and those who are in situations that are too dangerous to call 911.

“Today’s launch means that anyone who can send a text, can communicate in an emergency,” he said.

However, Stanton said calling 911 for help is still the preferred method — because it allows the dispatcher to quickly ask for a caller’s location — and that texting should be used only when necessary.

The texting service will not be able to pick up a person’s location unless that person texts that information. Also, it will not work with group texts and language translation is currently not available.

Liz Graeber, administrator for the Maricopa Region 911, said her agency will oversee the texting service. She said operators will ask those who text for help if they are able to safely 911 instead of texting.

“It’s easier for us if you call 911,” she said. “We want to leave text to those who really need it, those who are in danger and those with disabilities.”

Terri Guy, a Tempe resident who is hard of hearing, said at Monday’s press conference that the launch of the 911 texting service “sends a powerful message of empowerment” to people with speech, hearing and other disabilities.

“This will allow me to reach out for services and know that the first responders will receive the correct information and respond,” Guy said.

The service is free to use. It was made possible by a collaborative effort between Maricopa Association of Governments, Maricopa Region 911 and several public agencies representing people with disabilities.

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