Suffolk County activates ability to text 911 in an emergency

YAPHANK, N.Y. — Residents of Suffolk County will now have the option to text 911 in an emergency.

Inside the Suffolk County 911 Dispatch Center in Yaphank, emergency operators are already fielding the messages.

“We are now the largest county in the state of New York to have a text-to-911 program,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Text-to-911 is designed to help in a variety of life-threatening situations like an active shooter or domestic violence. It can also help people with hearing or speech problems.

Police advise anyone using the new system to prioritize their location and the nature of the emergency in the message. No video, pictures or emojis should be sent, nor should 911 be added to a group text.

PIX11 was allowed inside the dispatch center to see how everything works.

After you send a text to 911, you get an automatic reply asking you to call if you can, or continue to text if needed. Then you get a follow-up message from a 911 dispatcher.

Some cities that have rolled out text-to-911 have encountered problems. Bellone said he is confident the technology has come a long way.

“Earlier adopters,k you can run into issues,” he said. “We think this is the exactly the right time to launch this service.”

Suffolk’s system quietly had a soft launch in July, so police could make sure there were no problems sending or receiving texts.