October 26, 2021 by Mark Hamilton

Part 3: Text-to-911

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Industries: 9-1-1 & Law Enforcement

Topics: Analytics Command Center Software NG9-1-1 PSAPs Public Safety Applications

Policy and Training

Community education and outreach is imperative when rolling out a text-to-911 program at your PSAP. Every PSAP should have its own website where the public can go to find information about provided services. If your team doesn’t have a website, you can try leveraging your public safety websites for Police, Fire and/or EMS to include PSAP information. 

As a PSAP, you may have social media channels at your disposal to communicate directly with the public. Social media is not only useful for an initial text-to-911 rollout, but you can use these channels to routinely remind the public about your program as well as give out any additional updates. 

You may also want to consider preparing a news release or press conference with your local media outlets. In preparation for a news release, consider writing a document that outlines the main areas you’d like to discuss. You should identify key points such as why this news release is important, what your key talking points are and determine the answers to any commonly asked questions.

Community organizations, especially those of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) community, will be key stakeholders in your outreach efforts. Engage these organizations early to find out what their specific needs and concerns are. You can then incorporate that information into your messaging. The DHH community is extremely tight-knit and could especially benefit from a text-to-911 program. 

Did you know that approximately 15% of the general population has some sort of hearing impairment? That means the chances of someone in your community needing emergency services that include a text-to-911 program is extremely high.

It’s important to keep in mind that a successful text-to-911 program rollout will rely on your staff. After all, they’re the boots on the ground and the ones who will be handling the majority of this new media type.

One of the best things you can do as a PSAP manager or administrator is to meet with your staff before starting your program rollout. Here is where you can sit down with them and get answers to important questions. What are their concerns? How do they feel about handling text-to-911 messages? How will they manage the additional stress and workload? How will text-to-911 fit into their current workflow? Understanding your staff’s apprehension will help you address and alleviate these concerns. Getting buy-in from your staff is what can help your program be most effective.

If you have a training environment, work with your vendor partners to set up a text-to-911 testing scenario. You will be able to put your policies and procedures to the test with your staff to determine if there are any gaps or improvements that need to be addressed prior to program rollout. If your budget allows, work with your vendor partners on special training classes.

Just as with the public, make sure your staff understands the limitations of text-to-911. This includes letting them know that messages can be received out of order, how transfers will be done and what they should do if they receive a text message in a foreign language. Make sure they understand what, if any, pre-canned messages are configured in the system as well as when and how to use them. They should also be informed on what information needs to be transferred over to the CAD system. 

In Part 4 of this blog series, I will discuss how to bring everything together in order to have a successful text-to-911 program rollout for your PSAP. 

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