BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Those experiencing an emergency will soon be able to text 911 in Sullivan County.

Starting Friday, Sullivan County 911 will be able to receive and process text messages sent to 911.

The new service will be beneficial to those who are speech disabled, deaf, have difficulty hearing, or those in danger and cannot speak freely.

Sullivan County 911 says a phone call will remain the best way to reach 911 and texting should only be used when calling is not possible. Text messages take dispatchers longer to process due to the delay in exchanging information and one wrong number or letter could result in first-responders being sent to the wrong address.

Sullivan County 911 provided the following instructions for texting 911:

How to Text 911

The first thing to know when texting 911 is to use the phone’s native SMS app. 911 texting is not available via Whatsapp, Telegram, or any other messaging platform. Most are familiar with how to send a text to new numbers, and texting 911 is no different.

If uncertain, follow these steps to reach a dispatcher:

1. Type 9-1-1 into the ‘To’ field

2. Provide Details of the Emergency

When texting 911, remember the dispatcher receiving the message has no idea what is happening where you are. It is vital to share as much relevant information as possible in your first text. Make the information as clear and concise as possible.

Include the following:

  • Location of where help is needed
  • What emergency response is needed (Fire, EMS, Law Enforcement)
  • What is happening

3. Send the Message

A dispatcher will respond and will verify the information received as correct, as well as ask additional questions and provide pre-arrival instructions. It is important to keep the phone active and be ready to respond. Stick to sending short to-the-point messages without emojis.

While sending a photo, recording, or video may seem a good idea, 911 cannot receive this data this time. In fact, attempting to send these things will turn your message into an MMS message and it will not transmit to 911.

If for some reason, your text does not go through, an automatic “bounce back” message will advise you the message was not received. These messages are designed to minimize the risk of mistakenly believing a text was sent successfully to the 911 center when it failed.