Nassau County OKs purchase of text-to-911 interface

Nassau County OKs purchase of text-to-911 interface
Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton introduced legislation that would enact text-to-911 services in the county. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Nassau County Rules Committee unanimously approved a $106,417 purchase Monday for a custom text-to-911 interface with the Intergraph Corporation that will enable residents to text the emergency telephone line in instances where calling is not accessible.

“The implementation of text-to-911 capabilities is an important step toward modernizing our emergency response capabilities and providing life-saving resources to anyone who needs to reach authorities discreetly, such as in an active shooter, hostage or domestic violence crisis,” Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D–Glen Cove) said.

“I am hopeful that Nassau will ensure the service is equipped with robust language access capabilities so that every Nassau resident can reap the benefits of a worthwhile endeavor that can make all of us safer,” the legislator said.

The text-to-911 services will transfer text messages to 911 to the Nassau County Police Department’s current Computer Aided Dispatch system.

The text-to-911 service would be available 24/7 and provide for individuals who are unable to call the emergency services number. This includes individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, have a limited proficiency in the English language or are in situations where first responders need to be reached in a discreet manner, such as in an active shooter, hostage or domestic violence situation.

As of now, the only way Nassau County residents can contact 911 is via a phone call.

Penalties for misusing text-to-911 services are the same for misuse of the current phone services.

The program’s implementation would be overseen by the Nassau County Police Department commissioner and the Nassau County fire marshal.

This will be done in conjunction with feedback and guidance from disability rights advocates, which includes the Nassau County Disability Advisory Council.

DeRiggi-Whitton introduced the legislation to implement the new services on July 31.

“It is essential for our emergency response capabilities to keep up with the latest technology so that our courageous first responders can protect public safety to the best of their abilities,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “Not only will implementing text-to-911 accomplish that goal, it gives Nassau County residents a powerful and discrete, and accessible tool for alerting police officers to a crisis. I am sure that launching a text-to-911 program will save lives, provide language access capabilities and give us all a little extra peace of mind in a tumultuous world.”

Text-to-911 has already been implemented in numerous counties in the state, including neighboring Suffolk County.

Nassau County is required to implement the 911 text services by Sept. 15 due to a May lawsuit settlement that alleged the county violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The lawsuit was filed in January 2017 by Disability Rights New York, which alleged that the county’s 911 services violated the act as it failed to provide accessible options for individuals with hearing loss.

“911 must be available and accessible to everyone,” Disability Rights New York Executive Director Timothy Clune said in a press release. “Without text-to-911, those who are unable to orally communicate their need for emergency services are left without critical assistance when they need it most. In 2023, this technology should have already been implemented statewide.”

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