Commonwealth Launches Text to 911 Program Statewide

All Massachusetts communities are now able to accept 911 texts from residents. (File photograph)

Need help but unable to speak in an emergency? Assistance is available courtesy of a new program that allows Massachusetts residents to text 911 using their cellular device.

Upgrades over the last three years helped make the program a reality, the Baker-Polito Administration said this week. Officials heralded the initiative as a lifeline for victims of domestic violence as well as residents who are deaf or speech-impaired.

“Having the ability to contact a 911 call center by text could help those being held against their will or victims of domestic violence unable to make a voice call,” said Frank Pozniak, the state’s executive director of the 911 department. “Text to 911 also provides direct access to 911 emergency services for the deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired, which is a service that these communities did not have access to until now.”

To contact emergency services, enter 911 in the “To” field of a text message and type a message, being sure to provide as much information as possible. Users are asked to start messages with the exact location of the emergency including city and street address.

Last month, officers from the Randolph Police Department were able to aid a resident using the text system after the man texted an address and the message “I no longer have any reason to live.” Officers were dispatched to the location, where they found a 23-year-old locked in a closet and hanging from a shirt. The department’s quick thinking helped save the man’s life, officers said.

“We’re just thankful we were there to help him in his time of need,” Detective Kristen Gagnon told The Boston Herald at the time. “Had he not texted, we wouldn’t be able to have this conversation.”