WESTLAND (WWJ) – If you have an emergency in western Wayne County, you can now text 911 for help if calling isn’t an option.

Eighteen communities in western Wayne County have implemented a system where people can text 911 instead of calling.

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Text-to-911 is an important service that offers citizens who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, a new way to contact emergency services. Other examples of a citizen needing text-to-911 service could include domestic violence, kidnapping and other situations where victims need a way to call for help without tipping off a criminal during the commission of a crime.

Communities in Western Wayne County include Belleville, Canton Township, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Garden City, Huron Township, Inkster, Livonia, Northville, Northville Township, Plymouth, Plymouth Township, Redford Township, Romulus, Sumpter Township, Van Buren Township, Wayne and Westland.

How does it work?

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Anyone who is within the borders of the 18 communities can use the service, as long as they have a texting plan with one of the four major carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon. The service is activated by sending a SMS text on a mobile phone to the number “911”. That text message will be routed to the nearest dispatch center for action.

At the current time, the rest of Wayne County does not have text-to-911 service, although some neighboring counties such as Oakland and Macomb have fully implemented text-to-911. If the texter is in an area that does not support text-to-911, they will receive a “bounce-back” message informing them 911 is not available via text.

While the new technology is an exciting advancement in public safety services, officials say citizens should “Call if you can, text if you can’t” when contacting 911.

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Officials stress that text-to-911 is a compliment to calling 911, not a replacement, because voice calls to 911 are still the most efficient way to communicate with public safety officials in an emergency situation.