Franklin County residents as well as Ohio State students living in Franklin County can now send emergency texts to 911. Credit: Courtesy of Franklin County Board of Commissioners

The Ohio State community and Franklin County residents can now send emergency text messages to 911.

The Ohio State Department of Public Safety has recently joined Franklin County and its partner agencies in central Ohio to offer this new service, Dan Hedman, director of marketing and communication at the Office of Administration and Planning, said in an email.

The purpose of the new service is to assist those with hearing and speech disabilities and those who cannot speak due to an injury or medical condition. It will also help those who are in a threatening situation where calling could endanger them.

However, while text messaging is now available, the Ohio State Department of Public Safety and Franklin County urge everyone in need of emergency assistance to call 911 due to text messaging limitations.

“Calling is better than texting because emergency dispatchers can get more immediate answers to questions from callers, listen for distress in voices and learn background information that could assist first responders in a potentially life-threatening emergency,” Marilyn Brown, Franklin County Commissioner and chair of the countywide 911 Planning Committee, said in a press release.

According to the Franklin County Commissioner’s website, the new “Text-to-911” service works on all devices capable of texting through any service provider.

The sender must enter the numbers “911” in the recipient field, type a brief yet detailed message including location and type of emergency, and press send.

Dispatchers will see the “Text-to-911” messages appear as they would on a smartphone text chain and respond with specific questions to the sender. Safety agencies in Franklin County developed pre-programmed responses intended to address text emergencies. If the text does not go through, it will bounce and an automated message will be sent back.

However, there are a few exceptions to the service. Pictures, videos and emojis cannot be received in texts. According to a press release, dispatchers hope to make that feature available in the future. Similarly, group messages with more than one recipient cannot be sent.

Hedman said students should keep in mind that dispatchers can often gather better information via a phone conversation.

“Remember to call if you can, and text if you can’t,” Hedman said.