911 texting soon available

The service will allow residents to contact emergency services via traditional cellphone texting services.

Kenai Peninsula Borough residents will have a new option to request emergency help starting Jan. 16, when Text-To-911 launches.

This service will allow residents to contact emergency services via traditional cellphone texting services by simply sending a text to 911, according to a press release from the Soldotna Public Safety Communication Center.

Though texting is convenient, the release said that residents should only use text messaging to contact 911 in a situation where calling is not an option.

“Text-to-911 was not developed as a replacement to a voice call to 911 in an emergency situation, but rather as an enhancement,” the release said.

Texting is an option to improve 911 functionality for those who experience a hearing or speaking disability, those who are in an emergency that renders them incapable of speech, or those who cannot speak for fear of putting themselves into danger.

“Call if you can; text if you can’t” is a tagline for the service.

The release said that texts are not instantaneous, and may take slightly longer, as the text is composed, transmitted, read and responded to. Further, the center urges residents to include necessary information like the location and the nature of the emergency in the first text, as well as which service is necessary — fire, police or medical. They said in the release that the 911 center will initially only receive location information for the cell tower transmitting the text.

“Text abbreviations, emoticons or slang should never be used,” they wrote. The service is incompatible with photos, videos or other attachments.

Text-to-911 can only be used within range of a cell tower, messages sent outside of service may not reach 911 centers. If a text is sent to 911 outside of a Text-to-911 enabled area, the device will receive a message telling them to make a voice call.

The release noted that Text-to-911 technology is improving over time, saying that recent Apple devices like the iPhone 14 and the Apple Watch 8 and SE are capable of routing emergency texts via satellite even outside of cell tower zones.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough will receive access to the functionality on Jan. 16, joining Wrangell and Petersburg. Other areas in Alaska, including Anchorage, do not have access to the functionality, and texting 911 will not work until it is implemented.

For more information about KPB Text-to-911, or the Soldotna Public Safety Communications Center, visit “Soldotna Public Safety Communications Center” on Facebook.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.