Sprint wireless customers in Lancaster County can now send a short message service (SMS) text message to 911 for emergency help when unable to make a 911 voice call. The service is available to active Sprint customers within the wireless coverage range of cell towers in Lancaster County. Text-to-911 is intended primarily for use in two emergency scenarios: for an individual who is hearing or speech impaired and for a person who is unable to make a voice call, for example during a medical emergency that renders the person incapable of speech, or in the instance of a home invasion, or abduction.
“The safety of residents and visitors in Lancaster County is our number one concern. Text-to-911 could be a life-saver, especially for people who might otherwise not be able to make a voice call. I congratulate the staff of Lancaster County-Wide Communications (the county’s 911 center) for their work in establishing this service and for setting an example for other 911 centers,” said Scott Martin, Vice-Chairman of the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners.
Important Information for Sprint Wireless customers in Lancaster County
Sprint customers in Lancaster County should keep the following in-mind if they send a text message to 911:
- Customers should use the texting option only when calling 911 is not an option.
- Using a phone to call 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency. It may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a text-to-911 situation because of the time involved. Someone must enter the text, the message must go over the network, which can take varying amount of time, and then the 911 dispatcher must read the text and respond by text.
- Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative since Lancaster County-Wide Communications will receive only an approximate location of the cell phone, and will not be able to speak with the person sending the text. Text abbreviations, slang, or foreign languages, should not be used so that the intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible.
- Customers must be in range of cell towers in the 717 area code. If customers are outside or near the edge of the county, a text message to 911 may not reach Lancaster County-Wide Communications, in the 717 area code and may instead be routed to another 911 center or may receive an automatic response that the service is not available.
- Text messages sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.
- Sprint customers must have mobile phones that are capable of sending SMS text messages. The solution is available to customers who use SMS provided by Sprint. Customers should consult their over-the-top (OTT) messaging provider to determine if and how text-to-911 is provided by the OTT application and not by Sprint.
- The texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire, or emergency medical services. Non-emergency issues should still be communicated to Lancaster County-Wide Communications through its non-emergency lines at –
717-664-1180 or 800-957-2677 for Police
717-664-1190 or 800-691-3473 for Fire and EMS
- Text-to-911 should only be used to communicate between a Sprint subscriber in urgent need of emergency assistance and Lancaster County-Wide Communications.
- Photos, video, attachments, or other recipients should not be included in the text message.