GREGG COUNTY, Texas — The Text 9-1-1 service is now available in several East Texas counties, allowing residents to send a text message for emergency assistance when they cannot make a voice call.

The service, which was spearheaded by the East Texas Council of Governments (ETCOG), is available in the following counties:

  • Anderson
  • Camp
  • Cherokee
  • Gregg 
  • Marion
  • Panola
  • Rains
  • Upshur
  • Van Zandt
  • Wood 

“To ensure the new service functions properly in our 9-1-1 district, our process was to drive the ETCOG region and test Text to 9-1-1 with the four major wireless carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon,” ETCOG’s Director of Public Safety Stephanie Heffner explained. “Once that process was completed, we conducted training with our 9-1-1 call centers. We are now making efforts to inform the public that Text to 9-1-1 is available for use.”

If they are in an emergency, users would send a text to 9-1-1 as they would any normal text. The service will respond with an automated message asking for the address of the emergency. 

“They will directly respond, ask your questions about maybe the circumstances you're experiencing," Lindsey Vanderbilt of ETCOG said. "And they're going to be able to deploy first responders from that text message.” 

Once the sessions is instigated, the user will be able to continue texting until help arrives or the emergency is over.

ETCOG stresses the service should only be used in emergency situations where voice communication is not possible. This includes those who are hearing or speech impaired or in situations where speaking may pose a danger like an abduction, domestic abuse or active shooter event.

In other situations, residents should call 9-1-1 as it will ensure a faster response time.

“The very best response you're going to get with 911 is calling," Vanderbilt said. "That's going to give a dispatcher the most information about your location and get you the quickest service.”

ETCOG says when using the service, the user needs to know their location. Users should also use simple language without abbreviations or slang.

The service is only available to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon users. If someone who is not on one of those carriers texts 9-1-1, they will receive an automated message telling the user to call 9-1-1.