Story By: WBIR Staff

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Knox County E-911 now has a new ‘Text-to-911’ service for those who need it during an emergency.

The feature went live Friday. Knox County said it should only be used in emergency situations when it’s not possible to place a call to 911 — such as for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired, or when speaking aloud would put the caller in danger.

Dispatchers said people need to remember never to text and drive. Those who need to use it should text them in simple language without abbreviations and be prepared to answer questions or follow instructions from the 911 operator.

“Our team is excited to offer “Text to 911” services to our community,” said Brad Anders, executive director of Knox 911. “We are proud that we can better keep our community safe and provide more options for them to contact emergency services when they need help.”

Officials said voice calls are still the best and fastest way to contact 911 operators. However, advocates said this service will provide immense help for those with hearing loss and speech disabilities.

“For the deaf and hard of hearing communities, people with speech disabilities, and people in medical situations who cannot verbally communicate, texting 911 will be a helpful alternative way to contact 911 in case of an emergency,” Molly Anderson with ARC of Tennessee said. “Texting 911 can save lives.”

Katheryn Ellis, executive director of the Knoxville Family Justice Center, said this service will also help provide domestic abuse victims with a discreet method of reaching out for help.

“Having the ability to Text to 911 when in a volatile situation could help victims receive much needed help without putting them at greater risk from talking on their phone,” she said.

Knox County now joins several other counties in East Tennessee who recently added a ‘Text-to-911’ service, including Hamblen, Loudon and Blount counties. Tennessee lawmakers are also currently considering a bill that would establish a statewide 911 texting system by 2023.  

Dispatchers want to remind people that abusing or pranking 911 is against the law and dangerous.

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