SIERRA VISTA — People who are unable to call 911 for help will soon be able to text it, city officials said Thursday.
The Text-to-911 service, which allows anyone who can’t speak to get the help they need by texting 911 will become an available option at the Southeastern Arizona Communications (SEACOM) dispatch center.
City Council members praised the concept, and voted for it unanimously at their meeting Thursday.
Installation of the service will begin in March 2021, said SEACOM Administrator Susan Papatrefon, and it will be paid for with a $67,200 grant that SEACOM was able to secure from the Arizona Department of Administration, Office of Grants and Federal Resources and the Arizona 9-1-1 Program.
“The grant will reimburse the city with costs associated with Text-to-911, including but not limited to the equipment, installation and maintenance of the service,” Papatrefon said. The grant period ends in June 2024, she said.
In a memo to City Manager Chuck Potucek, Papatrefon explained that the service affords individuals who are unable to call 911 for any reason, the ability to “communicate with Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPS.) The Federal Communications Commission implemented regulations requiring telephone companies to deliver text messages to PSAPS that request to receive them.”
A public safety answering point is a center — such as SEACOM — that receives and answers emergency calls and calls for service for police and fire agencies. The Text-to-911 service will be available to Sierra Vista and surrounding areas, Papatrefon’s memo says.
The agreement entered into between the city, SEACOM, the Arizona Department of Administration and the Office of Grants and Federal Resources, says the parties must inform the community about the new service a month before it becomes available. That includes “educating the public about the services, how they work and what to do during an emergency.”
The agreement also states that each communications center or PSAP, is encouraged to use the NENA (National Emergency Number Association) message, “Call if you can, text if you can’t.”
City Councilwoman Gwen Calhoun stressed that the service is not only for individuals who are physically unable to speak, but also for anyone who needs help, but may be in danger if someone hears them calling 911.