Sprint customers in Durham can now text photos to 911

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Beginning today, Sprint customers will be able to send photos to the Durham Emergency Communications Center when they send an emergency text to 911.

Texting to the DECC has been available to Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile customers since 2011, but Sprint is the only national carrier to let its customers attach a photo to their text, according to City of Durham officials.

The Durham Emergency Communication Center is the only center in North Carolina to offer 911 texting service with photo attachments for Sprint customers, according to a release from the City of Durham.

DECC Director James Soukup said sending a photo along with a 911 text is highly encouraged if it will help responders handling the incident.

“During a traumatic event, it is often difficult to remember a license plate number, vehicle description, suspect descriptions, and so forth,” Soukup said. “This technology will allow Sprint customers to send a picture with a 911 text to help in these types of incidents.”

According to Soukup, callers should remember that a phone call is still the fastest method to enable a public safety response, but a photo can also be sent as well.

“If a photo is available a caller can simply advise they are sending a 911 text with a picture to the 911 operator during the voice call,” Soukup said. “Then, we’ll pass along all of that information during dispatch, which helps the responding public safety agency be prepared for what they will encounter, or need to look for, upon arrival at the scene.”

The City of Durham offered tips for those who want to text 911, whether or not they attach photos:

  • Customers should use the texting and attached photo option only when calling 911 is not an option. It can take longer to receive a text message because someone must enter the text, the message then goes through the system, and the 911 operator must read the text and then text back. Picking up the phone and calling 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency.
  • Providing location information and the nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative since the 911 operator will not be able to access the mobile phone location or speak with the person who is sending the text and photo.
  • Text abbreviations or slang should never be used so that the intent of the message can be as clear as possible.
  • Do not use emoticons or emojis since this will scramble text messages.
  • Customers must be in range of cell towers in Durham County. If customers are outside or near the edge of the county, the message may not reach the center.
  • Sprint customers must have mobile phones that are capable of sending text messages and taking photos. Any text message to 911 will count either against their messaging plan or be charged in accordance with their wireless plans.
  • The texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire, or emergency medical services. Non-emergency issues should be communicated to the Durham Emergency Communication Center’s non-emergency line at (919) 560-4600.

Sprint is the only national carrier to offer this service to its customers. To learn more about Durham’s text-to-911 service, email Soukup or call him at (919) 560-4191.

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