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Norfolk residents can now text 911 for emergency help

A release from the city asked people to continue calling 911 as a standard method of asking for help, but the texting feature is available when needed.

NORFOLK, Va. — Author's note: the above video is on file from Jan. 4, 2021.

"Call if you can, text if you can't."

That's the newest guidance for emergencies in Norfolk, where the city rolled out "Text to 911" capabilities Tuesday.

Now, people who are experiencing an emergency can text dispatch to get help.

It works like any other text: residents can put 911 in the "to" field, and send the message. The Norfolk Department of Emergency Preparedness and Response (DEPR) emergency team will get the message, and answer the texter "within seconds."

Calling 911 is still the first way people should try to get help, if that's an option, according to the city.

"The newly integrated capability was put in place to provide an alternative method of emergency contact for those who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech-impaired, or otherwise incapable of making a phone call in the event of an emergency," a spokesperson wrote.

A release from the city said in these texts, the two most important things to include are 1) the location of the emergency, and 2) the type of emergency happening.

Right now, the service can't accept photos or videos over text message.

RELATED: Text-to-911 feature coming to Norfolk in mid-January