Hillsborough residents can now call or text 911

In 2017, Roxanne Holmes texted 911 to dispatchers when an escaped inmate -- a former friend -- broke into her Hernando County home.  She sent a discreet message so she wouldn’t alert the intruder. 

Today, texting to 911 is becoming even more widespread. Hillsborough County, Florida's fourth-largest county, now also has the system in place and functioning.

"If you're in one of those situations where you’re hiding -- you have to remain silent, speaking can jeopardize your safety -- this is a great option. You can text 911," said Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Natalia Verdina. 

It's as simple as sending a text to the numbers 911 -- no spaces, no dashes.  Officials recommend being as clear and detailed as possible just as if you called 911.  

"It is not a robot," Verdina continued. "Our dispatchers are monitoring it and responding and asking questions through it." 

Hillsborough joins a number of other counties who have similar systems in place, including Hernando, Citrus, Pinellas, Manatee, Pasco and others. 

In 2019, Governor DeSantis signed a bill into law requiring every Florida county to develop a text to 911 service by January 1, 2022.  It isn't meant to replace calling 911, as they say: "Call if you can, text if you can't."

"It is functioning now," Verdina added. "If you want to text 911, you can do it."