Folks in Hawaii can now text emergency requests to 911.
The service was announced at a press conference with Gov. David Ige and state and other officials Thursday.
There are some limitations to the service, however.
“Text-to-911,” as the state calls it, can only support plain text Short Messaging Services messages, and it’s limited to 160 characters per text. Pictures, videos and emojis currently cannot be processed.
Callers must also have active wireless service including a text or data plan, and the device’s location service must be turned on.
And, texting to 911 may not be available if the wireless phone is roaming or outside of the provider’s coverage area.
Still, Ige praised the service.
“While voice calls are always best, text-to-911 service provides practical mobile emergency communications for our deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired communities,” he said.
A website explaining the new service cited several examples of how it can be useful:
If you are in a situation where it is not safe to place a voice call to 911.
If you are experiencing a medical emergency that renders you incapable of speaking or hearing.
If you are unable to call 911 due to being in a location with sporadic cellular voice service.
If you are unable to speak or hear due to injury or physical restraint.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, Hawaii joins New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Indiana, New Jersey and North Dakota as states where text-to-911 is available statewide.