Text to 911: How Often It's Being Used

In the first half of 2019, Connecticut's 911 dispatch centers received 2,713 texts.

Connecticut started with Text to 911 service just over a year ago, and officials say while there have been some growing pains, the new technology has already helped victims reach out for life-saving help in dangerous situations.

In the first half of 2019, Connecticut's 911 dispatch centers received 2,713 texts. That's just a fraction of the total 962,099 calls made to 911 from January through June. 

Text to 911 launched statewide on August 23, 2018. Each of Connecticut's Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) is monitored 24 hours a day by trained dispatchers who respond to both voice calls and texts.

"The state sees about 450 [texts] a month. Largely those are either test calls or accidental ones, but there has been some actual text emergency that has been successful," said Brian Foley, aide to the commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP).

One difference between texting and calling 911 is location accuracy.

"The texting system that's used statewide, it gives the first responders an idea of where you are, but not a pinpoint location as with other technologies," said Foley. "A phone call is going to give them a better triangulation."

That's why dispatchers want you to give your location first if you have to text 911.

"As specific as you can get from your street address, the town you're in, right down to wherever you're hiding," Foley said.

The Hartford Emergency Communications Center received 289 texts in the first half of the year. New Haven had 258 and the Northwest CT Public Safety Communications Center in Waterbury received 139 texts.

The PSAPs in Brookfield, Mohegan Tribal Nation and Redding did not receive any emergency texts in that time frame.

NBC Connecticut Investigates obtained copies of the text messages received by Middletown's Central Communications Center.

One person texted, "Hello just checking things out to make sure everything is working OK Bye Have a nice day."

Another text said, "I saw the commercial on tv and I was trying to program the number into my cellphone. There is no emergency here !!!"

The dispatch center also received texts about non-emergency situations. In one case, a person reported a fire on Route 9. Another texted 911 to request an officer patrol.

"We don't want the system abused. We don't want people getting comfortable texting instead of using the regular 911 when they can," said Foley.

Foley said Text to 911 is intended for people who cannot speak due to a disability or medical condition, or situations where it is unsafe to do so.

In one instance, a person texted about a possible intruder in their home.

"I think someone is in my house," the text said. "I can't talk in my MBR."

The dispatcher continued the conversation with the person for more than 30 minutes asking questions like, "Did you hear any voices?" and "Are there any weapons in the house?"

The dispatcher only ended the conversation once officers confirmed the person was safe.

A 911 text led to the arrest of an East Hartford man earlier this month.

State Police say they received a text from a woman who said her ex-boyfriend had a gun and was holding her against her will at a plaza on Route 6 in Andover.

When police arrived and approached the car, the driver took off, leading police on a high speed chase.

The victim texted 911 twice more with updates to their location. The suspect, Simmie Freeman, was arrested in Hartford.

"In this case it worked perfectly," said Connecticut State Police Trooper Josue Dorelus.

The Text to 911 system can only receive messages in English and is unable to receive photos and videos at this time.

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