Can't call? You can now text 911 during an emergency in Manatee County

Manatee County offers text to 911 service
Posted at 10:41 PM, Mar 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-22 05:50:50-04

BRADENTON, Fla. — A Tampa Bay county is making it easier for people to access emergency services, even if they are not able to make a phone call. 

Manatee County residents are now only one text away from life-saving help. 

The county recently activated its text to 911 service, connecting them to police and fire when needed. 

ABC Action News tested out the service by simply texting the word "help" to 911. 


Manatee Co. 911 call center will soon begin to accept text messages

Sarasota County residents can now text 911 in emergency situations

Within seconds, a dispatcher responded asking for the location and type of emergency. 

"The most important thing is getting the location so we can send them help as quickly as possible," said

Manatee dispatcher Marisa Carpenter. 

ABC Action News has learned, the new feature has already helped a Manatee County woman escape a potentially violent situation.

"It was a domestic where the caller could not let the other party know that they were calling 911," said Stacy Needham, who helps oversee the Manatee County Emergency Center. 

As Stoneman Douglas students were forced to keep quiet, hiding underneath their classroom desks and chairs, dispatchers believe text to 911 will be vital when classrooms come under attack. 

"Imagine a kid in a classroom that doesn't want that shooter to know where they are, they now have that capability to text 911 and say, 'hey I'm in this room on this side' and they can even tell us where that shooter is," said Needham. 

Dispatchers can not receive video/audio messages or emojis, but Needham says that may happen down the road. 

We checked in with both Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, both agencies plan to offer the same service by the end of the year.