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Columbia’s public safety leaders don’t want you to text 911 in hurricane emergency

SC Gov. Henry McMaster warns of high flood risk of Hurricane Florence

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster says to get to higher ground if you live in flood areas as Hurricane Florence approaches in a press conference September 12, 2018.
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South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster says to get to higher ground if you live in flood areas as Hurricane Florence approaches in a press conference September 12, 2018.

On Thursday afternoon, Richland County announced that residents could text 911 in an emergency.

It was believed to be another option to contact first responders this week for people affected by Hurricane Florence.

After further consideration and input from some of the Midlands top public safety officials, citizens are now being urged not to use “Text to 911,” according to a statement from the City of Columbia.

The request is being made “out of an abundance of caution,” by Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, Columbia Chief of Police Skip Holbrook and Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins.

They issued a statement where they agreed they were “excited about this new technology.” In spite of that, Lott, Holbrook and Jenkins said the challenges presented by “a critical weather event,” like Hurricane Florence, was not the appropriate time to launch the new feature. They said it was “not in the best interest of public safety.”

According to the statement, the reluctance was because the text option hasn’t been fully tested and that staff needs proper training.

Because of that, “all citizens are urged to use the traditional method of calling 911 for all emergency services,” per the statement from Lott, Holbrook and Jenkins.

When “Text to 911” is launched, it is promoted as an ideal way to report an emergency without speaking. That could benefit people whose life would be jeopardized by talking, or an alternative for those with hearing or speech impairments.

There was no word on when the service will be available.

York County emergency officials have issued guidelines York County residents should take during Hurricane Florence.

Follow more of our reporting on Hurricane Florence

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