Nassau County residents now able to text 911 in emergency situations

Nassau County residents now able to text 911 in emergency situations
Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton introduced legislation that would enact text-to-911 services in the county. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Nassau County residents are now able to text 911 in cases of emergency, expanding emergency response to individuals with hearing or speech impairments, not proficient in English, in poor cell reception or in situations where speaking may threaten their safety.

“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) previously said. DeRiggi-Whitton proposed the legislation that was approved over the summer.

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

The text-to-911 service is available 24/7 and provides for individuals who are unable to call the emergency services number.

This includes individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, have 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.

“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 previously said.

Communication Bureau Operators demonstrated the process of texting the emergency phone line at a press conference Thursday where Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder announced the launch of the new service.

Police said that dialing 911 should still be the primary method when requesting help in an emergency.

Prior to the text-to-911 services, the only way Nassau County residents could contact 911 was via a phone call.

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

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

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

“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 previously 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.”

The county Legislature approved the purchase of the text-to-911 interface with the Intergraph Corporation on Aug. 7

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

Nassau County was 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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