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Text-to-911 Now Available Throughout Maine

The Public Utilities Commission's Emergency Services Communications Bureau has been working with wireless telecommunications carriers for several months to complete and test the technology.

(TNS) — Maine joined the still limited number of U.S. states that offer texting-to-911 service on Friday, the Maine Public Utilities Commission said.

The text-to-911 service is now available at all 911 Public Safety Answering Points throughout Maine. The commission's Emergency Services Communications Bureau has been working with major wireless telecommunications carriers during the past several months to complete and test the technology.

Most states still do not offer the service because of limited funds, piecemeal adoption or old technology at call centers, according to the Associated Press.

The commission said texting 911 should only be used when making a voice call is not an option.

Citizens and visitors throughout Maine can send a short text message to 911 in an emergency.

Text-to-911 is intended primarily for use in specific emergency scenarios: for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired, and for those 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.

"Text to 911 technology could be a life-saver, especially for people who might otherwise not be able to make a voice call," commission Chairman Mark Vannoy said in a statement. "This is a major technology advancement, and Maine is among the first in the nation to successfully implement this important technology which takes advantage of our advanced Next Generation 9-1-1 system."

The commission said using a phone to call 911 is still the most efficient way to summon emergency help.

But those who need to text should provide location information and the nature of the emergency in the first text message. That's because the 911 Public Safety Answering Points will not receive the location of the cellphone.

The commission advises against ever using text abbreviations or slang so the dialogue can be as clear as possible.

To use the service, cellphone users need to be in the range of a cell tower in Maine. Otherwise their message might not get through.

Texts sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.

No pictures, video or other attachments can be sent with the emergency communications.

The commission's Emergency Services Communications Bureau manages the statewide 911 system.

The commission said Maine's 911 system and public safety dispatchers handled more than 559,000 calls in 2017 at one of Maine's 24 public safety answering points. More than 69 percent of the calls came from wireless phones.

©2018 Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.