Beginning today, August 9, 2019 those needing emergency help in Citrus County will be able to text 911 in situations where a phone call may not be possible.

The new law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, requiring all Florida counties to implement text to 9-1-1 services by January 1st, 2022, will make it possible for  citizens not able to verbally communicate during an emergency to now seek help. 

Citrus County citizens who are deaf/hard of hearing, or have a speech-impairment challenges will be among those most impacted by the text-to-9-1-1 implementation.

In domestic violence situations, where a caller may need to seek help secretly, or in the event of an intruder, the ability to simply text 9-1-1 can mean the difference between life and death. 

“We are excited to begin offering text to 9-1-1 services to the citizens of Citrus County,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office strives to best serve every member of our community, and this is another step in the right direction.”

When Should Text-to-911 be Used?

  • The reporting party cannot speak while a crime is in progress.
  • The reporting party must remain quiet to stay safe.
  • If speaking may cause harm, such as in a home invasion, domestic violence, or human trafficking situation.
  • If the reporting party encounters a suicidal or agitated person.
  • If peer pressure is strong.
  • If the reporting party is deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing, or has a speech impairment.

How to Text 911

  • Enter the numbers 911 in the “To” field.
  • Text message should include your location and type of emergency.
  • Send the message.
  • Be ready to answer questions and follow instructions.
  • Use simple words.
  • Do not use abbreviations, emojis, pictures or slang. (BRB, IDK, THX, 2day and BTW, for example)
  • Do not text and drive.

What Dispatchers Need to Know

  • Dispatchers prefer to speak with reporting parties whenever possible.
  • Upon receiving a text, dispatchers will ask if they can call the reporting party.
  • People who are deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing, or have a speech impairment
    should inform the dispatcher right away.
  • Be ready to give the dispatcher your location.
  • Be ready to describe the type of emergency.

According to a press release from the Citrus County Sheriff’s office, the grant that is being used to fund the implementation of text to 9-1-1 was awarded by the State of Florida Division of Management Services E9-1-1 Board.  

CCSO was awarded this $40,158 grant in June of 2018. The Emergency Operations Division and Communications Center have been working extensively to get the program up and running.

The NENA agreement between the “Big 4” wireless companies (Verizon, AT&T,  Sprint, and T-Mobile) ensures that our citizens will have the most access to coverage.

According to the Department of Management Services, Citrus County is the 40th county out of Florida’s 67 counties to implement this technology.

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