Residents across Los Angeles County now have the ability to send a text message to 911 to contact help during an emergency, authorities announced Friday.
The new system, called Text-to-911, is meant to allow people who are hard of hearing, speech-impaired or unable to talk safely on the phone to connect with emergency services. Cities such as Burbank, Glendale, Long Beach and Los Angeles now have the ability to field text messages sent to 911.
However, it is not meant as a total replacement for calling 911 traditionally. Sgt. Daniel Suttles, a spokesperson for the Glendale Police Department, said the time from when a text is sent and then received by the system can vary from instantaneous to several minutes, depending on a person's location and cellphone service.
"Phone communication is still the primary way we want you to communicate because it's more reliable," he said.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, there are some caveats to texting 911.
The service is not available when a person is roaming, photos and video cannot be sent or received, and messages should be sent in plain English with no abbreviations.