Civic News
DEI / Public safety

Texting 9-1-1 is now possible in Maryland

Officials still say to call if you can, but believe that text messages will help with safety and accessibility.

Now you can see why people are calling 911. (Photo by Flickr user nadbasher, used under a Creative Commons license)

It’s now possible to text 9-1-1 in emergency situations for those in the state of Maryland.

Officials say the preferred method is still to call 9-1-1. But in the myriad situations where calling isn’t possible, texting a 9-1-1 operator is now available. Along with helping people in situations where a voice call is not safe, officials said the service is designed to provide accessibility for those who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or have a speech disability.

The texting capability is rolling out on Thursday at 911 centers across the state.

“Maryland’s public safety employees will now have another tool as they respond to emergencies needing police, fire, and paramedics,” State Senator Cheryl Kagan in a news release. “I wonder whether my friend and late Rockville activist Carl Henn would be alive today if texting to 9-1-1 had been an option.”

Henn died from after being struck by lightning. He survived the initial strike but after his body was found after the storm and CPR was administered by friends. They couldn’t reach a 9-1-1 operator, according to an NBC Washington report. Eventually, a friend with an SUV had to drive Henn to the hospital, where he died from the damage the lighting did to his heart.

The SB339/HB397 bills where dedicated in Henn’s memory. Kagan sees the new service as another step in the Next Generation 9-1-1 commission she chairs. The commission, which includes 911 center directors, technologists and legislators, has enacted nine bills. It was recently extended for an additional two years.

Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.
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