Users get first glimpse of ‘Text to 911,’ system to roll out statewide next month


As Hawaiian Telcom worked to resolve intermittent phone issues statewide Wednesday, the Honolulu Police Department told people who couldn’t get through to 911 by phone to text instead.

It’s an upgrade to the Enhanced 911 or E911 system, a feature cell phone owners have been paying for, for years.

While the system won’t officially be rolled out for another month, Wednesday was the first time the “Text to 911” feature was used on a large scale.

E911 executive director Courtney Tagupa says the system is designed to “improve the technology and to virtually save lives and to allow the first responders as much information possible on the potential victim.”

Mobile phone owners have been paying every month for E911. That monthly fee, which brought in more than $9 million this past fiscal year, helped with this latest technology.

People should text 911 when it’s not safe to call, when they can’t speak or hear, or if they have unstable cell service.

Officials also say people should turn on their location services on their cell phone. They should not use abbreviations, and they need to remember that there are no guarantees that a text message will be sent or received.

Hawaii is only one of five states working on this technology, which will officially be deployed statewide in one month.

This feature will also work for visitors who come to the islands. They can send a text, and it will reach a local 911 center in Hawaii.

“It’s fantastic. I mean, it’s a great way for folks to reach 911. Every way people can reach 911 is great,” said Su Shin with Hawaiian Telcom.

But officials want to remind people that calling 911 is still the best option. Call if you can, text if you can’t.

“Because as you know, when you’re texting, it just takes time and time is of the essence when you’re saving lives,” Tagupa said.

Click here for more information on E911.

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