Text-to-911 technology now available in Dearborn, other western Wayne County communities

DEARBORN – Dearborn is one of 18 communities in western Wayne County with a new Text-to-911 service, which means people have another way to summon help when they are in an emergency situation.

Dearborn is part of the Conference of Western Wayne, which announced April 15 that the Text-to-911 service is now available to the 18 communities within its jurisdiction.

Residents and visitors in Dearborn and CWW communities can reach emergency responders through 911 via text if they have a texting plan with one of the four major carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon.

The service is activated by sending a Short Message Service text on a mobile phone to the number “911.” That text message will be routed to the nearest CWW 911 dispatch center for action.

The CWW and public safety officials made clear that calling 911 is still the preferred method in an emergency, but may not be possible in some situations. The motto is “Call if you can, text if you can’t.”

Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said this new service strengthens Dearborn’s public safety response.

“This new technology should give our residents and visitors additional peace of mind, that they will be able to reach out for help even if they can’t talk in an emergency,” O’Reilly said.

He joined Westland Mayor Bill Wild, chairman of the CWW, and CWW law enforcement officials at the press conference announcing the text-to-911 service and “Call if you can, text if you can’t” public safety program.

CWW officials emphasized that text-to-911 is a compliment to calling 911, not a replacement, because voice calls to 911 are still the most efficient way to communicate with public safety officials in an emergency situation.

Under state law, the CWW coordinates one of four 911 Service Districts within Wayne County.

The CWW communities are the cities of Belleville, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Garden City, Inkster, Livonia, Northville, Plymouth, Romulus, Wayne and Westland, and the townships of Canton, Huron, Northville, Plymouth, Redford, Sumpter and Van Buren.

With advancements in mobile phone technology leading to a large number of residents using SMS text messaging for various communications, the elected leaders and law enforcement officials of the 18 CWW communities began working in 2015 to test and implement new technology.

They wanted to empower residents in CWW communities, including Detroit-Wayne County Metropolitan Airport, to send SMS text messages to local 911 emergency centers when seeking help or to report emergencies when voice calling is not an option.

Text-to-911 also benefits residents who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability.

Other examples of a resident needing text-to-911 service are victims of domestic violence, kidnapping and other situations where help must be summoned without tipping off criminals during the commission of a crime.

At this time, only CWW communities have text-to-911 service in Wayne County. The neighboring counties of Oakland and Macomb have fully implemented text-to-911.

If the texter is in an area that does not support text-to-911, they will receive a “bounce-back” message informing them 911 is not available via text.