ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Texting is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to communicate, but you still can’t send a text to 911 in most parts of central Florida.
More than two years after the Federal Communications Commission required cell phone carriers to deliver emergency text to call centers that request them, only 8 counties in Florida can accept texts to their 911 systems.
Counties are not required 911 systems that can accept text messages.
“If you're in fear for your life and a voice call will bring you harm, then we encourage you to go ahead and text,” said Lizette Resto of the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.
Osceola County is the only county in central Florida where people who need help can text 911. The county’s system has been in place for about a year.
According to Resto, 400 people texted 911 in Osceola County in 2016 and deputies were dispatched in 56 of those cases.
Osceola County dispatchers fielded 400,000 voice calls in 2016.
Orange County will have a text to 911 system in place by the Fall, according to chief information officer Rafael Mena, who said officials began laying the ground work in early 2016.
The county needed time and money to upgrade the computers systems at 10 call centers across Orange County, Mena said.
"We need to make sure the proper standards and the proper architecture are in place...so the system works correctly,” he said.
Operators and dispatchers would rather people call 911 than text, said Resto.
“[On] a voice call we usually try to get all the information within the first 30 seconds. But texting [takes] two, three minutes because of the texting back and forth between the person and the operator,” Resto said.
Officials say texting to 911 works best for people who are deaf, have a speech impediments, or are in situations where speaking could put them in further danger.
In June of 2016, callers in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando whispered their locations and other information to 911 operators while the terrorist who killed 49 people lurked nearby.
In that case, Mena said, texting 911 might have helped.
“That could be debated,” he said, then added, “The calls that were made to our 911[centers] got through. Our public safety—first responders—got there very quickly.”