April recognized as 911 Education Month in Iowa

98 percent of Iowa's 911 call centers are now capable of receiving text messages

911 Education Month logoAPRIL 2, 2018 - Governor Kim Reynolds has designated April as 911 Education Month in Iowa. In cooperation with the National Association of State 911 Administrators (NASNA), 911 Education Month is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEMD) and the Iowa 911 Communications Council.

 

To coincide with 911 Education Month, the second full week of April is recognized as National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week.

A Tribute to the First, First Responders

 

Text-to-911

For the past few years, HSEMD and its many telecommunications vendors and several wireless providers have worked diligently to upgrade Iowa's 911 network to an Internet Protocol (IP)-based system. The improved system, which is more robust and capable of handling new messaging technology, is now 98 percent complete. HSEMD, vendors, and wireless providers continue to work aggressively toward 100-percent statewide Text-to-911 capability.

 

Though the state's 911 centers will have the ability to accept text messages, Blake DeRouchey, Iowa's 911 program manager stresses the preferred method of requesting assistance is to call.

 

"A voice call is generally faster than sending a text message, and important follow-up questions can be asked by the 911 call taker so that emergency responders have a better understanding of the situation," DeRouchey said. "However, we recognize there are instances where it isn't always possible to make that voice call, and that's where Text-to-911 comes in. Call if you can, text if you can't."

 

Text-to-911 logo: Call if you can, text if you can'tDeRouchey also wants to make clear that not all mobile carriers have or will be providing this capability to its customers. Currently, six cell phone carriers in Iowa have committed to making Text-to-911 available to customers: AT&T, i-Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon.

 

"Some smaller regional and prepaid companies may also be able to provide Text-to-911," he noted. "You may want to contact your wireless provider if you have questions on its availability."

 

Text-to-911 was developed primarily for citizens who are hard of hearing, deaf, or speech impaired. Texting can be used in situations in which a voice call to 911 would endanger the caller, such as during a home invasion or domestic abuse situation. Sending a text to 911 can also be helpful in situations in which a medical condition makes it impossible for the caller to speak. Eventually, Iowa’s IP-based 911 network will also eventually allow citizens to contact 911 using video and picture messaging, although that is much further down the road.

Important 911 takeaways

  • Only call in an emergency
  • Keep calm and know your location (this is the first question the 911 call taker will ask you)
  • Don't let your kids play with cell phones (phones no longer in use are still capable of calling 911)
  • Teach your kids the correct way to use 911
  • NEVER hang up on a 911 call until the operator indicates it is OK to so, even if you dial 911 by accident

Public education tools and resources for 911 education are also available on the Know 911 website. Information will also be available on HSEMD social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, throughout the month using hashtag #911education. Text-to-911 fliers and answers to frequently asked questions about Text-to-911 are also available on the HSEMD website.

 

Be ready for emergencies every day

  • Build a kit. Your emergency supply kit should have everything you need to sustain you and your family (including your pets) for a minimum of 3 days, and it is recommended you have enough supplies for up to two weeks. Get a checklist you can use to put together your own kit.

  • Make a plan. Knowing what to do in the event of an emergency is key. Make sure everyone in your family knows what to do. Get your family plan here.

  • Be Aware. Learn about the hazards that can affect your community, and learn how to get information about current weather and road conditions.

     

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