Thursday marked the first day the Garden City Police Department offered the availability of a Text-to-911 program for emergency situations.

The program, offered in Finney County through collaboration with the GCPD and the Kansas 911 Coordinating Council, is intended for individuals who can’t safely talk on the phone during an emergency, according to the GCPD. The program also is expected to be a valuable service for citizens who are deaf or hard of hearing, who are unable to speak due to a medical condition, and who may be involved in abduction, domestic violence or active shooter situations.

The Text-to-911 program is available for callers with plans from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. The program can’t be used outside of Finney County, and if a text is made to 911 where the service is unavailable, a message will be sent back to the phone advising the customer to make a voice call.

The GCPD advises residents to use the following guidelines when using the new program: Provide your exact address or location, explain the type of emergency or help being requested, be prepared to answer any questions that the 911 communicator texts back, be brief and concise, and use plain language with no abbreviations, symbols, emoticons or photos.

Texting should be done through the standard texting application on a user’s wireless phone and not through a third-party texting application. Text-to-911 also requires an active cellphone service plan with data, or it will not work.

“Remember, the best way to contact 911 is by making a voice call,” Garden City police Capt. Randy Ralston said. “Please only utilize this service in emergency circumstances where a voice call is not possible or safe."

Contact Mark Minton at mminton@gctelegram.com.