911 texting feature now available for Shelby County residents

Updated: Feb. 24, 2020 at 5:24 PM CST
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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - Getting in touch with emergency responders is now literally at your fingertips.

A new 911 texting feature allows Shelby County residents to text dispatch instead of call. All you have to do is type 911 into the “to” field and send a message asking for help. The texting feature also pings the location from where the message is coming from.

"We're especially excited about our hearing impaired community being able to communicate with us in a different and new way," said Captain Anthony Buckner with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office.

In addition to helping those who may be hearing impaired, the texting feature could protect someone who’s trying to contact the police without being noticed.

"That could put themselves in danger had they alerted whoever they were with that they were trying to reach out to 9-1-1," said Shelby County 911 Director of Network Services Carlton Ray.

Memphis Police rolled out this texting feature in April of 2019. Since then there have been more than 3,000 texting conversations and nearly 28,000 text messages sent and received. Memphis Police dispatchers answer about 3,500 calls daily.

Now, other areas of Shelby County like Germantown, Collierville and Millington will also have access to this texting feature.

"We've been testing this for the last couple of weeks making sure our dispatchers were trained and ready," said Buckner.

Officials still want to encourage the public to call if they can. They say talking to someone over the phone is usually a better option.

MPD’s text to 911 system was the first of its kind in the state.

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