You can now text 911 for help

New technology to save lives in Montgomery County

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. – If you can't call for help, now you can just shoot 911 a text.

The New River Valley 911 center in Montgomery County officially launched the new technology last week, joining other emergency departments in Southwest Virginia like Roanoke City and Pittsylvania County.

It's designed for people who are speech or hearing impaired and can't call for help.

"This is their only lifeline to us other than having to text someone else," said Danny Wilson, the communications supervisor, "It's a lot faster response for us."

It's also for anyone having a medical emergency that makes it impossible to talk, and people who may put themselves at risk by talking out loud.

"It may be dangerous for them to speak if they're in a violent situation: domestic violence, a home invasion, something like that. It would be wise to stay hidden and send a text message instead," said training coordinator Valerie Dintino.

All you have to do is open your text messaging application on your cellphone, type a message to 911, tell them your emergency and your location.

"We just look at those messages and type our messages back," Dintino said.

If you text:

  • Provide the exact location of the emergency because the center cannot always determine your location.
  • Describe what type of help is needed (police, fire, rescue).
  • Keep text messages brief and concise. Use simple words, not abbreviations.
  • Be prepared to answer follow-up questions from the 911 call taker.
  • Do not send emoji’s, photos or videos.
  • Silence your phone if you don’t want to be heard.
  • Do not text and drive.

Dispatchers said, if you can, call them because that's the quickest way to get help. However, if you can't call, send a text.

"It's just another service that we offer to make it easier for people to contact us," Wilson said.

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