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New law says 911 emergency systems must accept text messages

person texting in dark

Fresno County does not yet have a text-to-911 emergency system in place for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The new law will ensure a statewide implementation of a text-to-911 system for emergency response by January 1, 2021, reports Fresnobee.

“I think we are in line sometime in November to start getting the initial visits from the state, because the state has to make sure that all of the hardware and software of the system is set up and in place so that when they bring the new system over that it is easily installed into our system,” said Fresno County Sheriff’s Lt. Francis Devins.

The new law addresses the difficulties people who are deaf and hard of hearing have when trying to contact emergency services. Currently, unless a county already has a system capable of receiving text messages, a person with impaired hearing can only use specialized devices to reach 911 call centers.

Michelle L. Bronson, executive director at the Fresno Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center, said she was thrilled that the bill was passed: “Not all of us have video phones and not all of us have the access and the ability to quickly contact 911. We also think it would benefit those who can hear but are in a 911 emergency where it’s not necessarily safe to use their voice.”

Bronson said it will be important agencies like hers to educate the community about this new text-to-911 system.

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