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911 call centers across Maryland will accept text messages starting Thursday

911 call centers across Maryland are accepting text messages in addition to calls starting Thursday, according to the Maryland Association of Counties.

The association said in a news release that customers from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon will be able to send texts to 911 when a call can’t be placed.

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The text service is intended to help those who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or have a speech disability as well as help those who are in an unsafe situation to call. The association said it can also help someone who is experiencing a medical emergency and may not be able to talk.

“We are thrilled to officially launch text-to-911 service here in Maryland,” associate director of the Maryland Association of Counties Kevin Kinnally said the release. “While a phone call is still the preferred way to contact 9-1-1, the ability to send a text message to 9-1-1 gives residents and visitors — particularly those who may have difficulty placing a voice call — better access to emergency services.”

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Once a text is sent, a 911 specialist will respond to the message and ask follow-up questions, the association said.

People are still encouraged to call when possible and should avoid using slang or abbreviations in messages.

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