The Tarrant 911 District is a vital, behind-the-scenes entity that ensures residents of Tarrant County and Irving have access to efficient and reliable emergency services.

Established in 1985, the Tarrant 911 District was created through state legislation to enhance emergency response capabilities. Its primary role is to manage the complex technology and systems behind 911 calls, ensuring they are correctly routed to the appropriate dispatch centers based on the caller's GPS location.

“We're not with the county, and we're not with the police department,” Strategic Communications Manager Abigail Dudek said. “We're our own entity. We are responsible for making 911 work for the entire county and Irving.”

When residents of Tarrant County and Irving dial 911, their calls are directed to local dispatch centers equipped to handle their emergencies. For instance, a call from Southlake is routed to Keller's consolidated dispatch center, which serves multiple cities. This sophisticated system involves triangulating calls and managing the technology for the entire emergency response network.

The district has continued to evolve over time to better serve residents. Since November 2020, residents in Tarrant County and Irving can text 911 during emergencies when it's unsafe to call, such as during an active-shooter situation. This feature is vital for ensuring communication with emergency services when silence is necessary for safety.

Residents should note that group texts, media files and slang terms are not supported, and there is currently no language translation service for text messages to 911.

One thing residents may not know about the Tarrant 911 District is that its funding comes from a federal fee included in every Texan's phone bill and money also comes from landline and business line fees.

“In Texas, that fee is 50 cents,” Dudek said. “It's not a tax, it's a fee. When you look at the bottom [of your phone bill], it'll say ‘911 emergency fee, 50 cents.’ Here in Tarrant County, that money comes to us.”

The district also plays a crucial role in public education and training, alleviating cities of these responsibilities. The district’s mascot, Cell Phone Sally, is used for educational outreach to teach children about emergency services and when to call 911.

“She's a big pink cellphone,” Dudek said. “She has her own tab on our website. Folks can get on our website and download a classroom activity kit in English and Spanish and the Cell Phone Sally Safety Book, which is also in English and Spanish.”

The district focuses on educating adults in the community as well. Tarrant 911 staff share information to help individuals understand what constitutes an emergency and the appropriate use of 911 services to ensure lines remain available for genuine emergencies. For example, power outages, while inconvenient, are not emergencies that should be reported through 911.

Through technological management, public education and continuous improvement of emergency communication systems, the Tarrant 911 District plays a pivotal role in public safety. To learn more, visit the organization’s website.

The above story was produced by Multi-platform Journalist Mary Katherine Shapiro with Community Impact's Storytelling team with information solely provided by the local business as part of their "sponsored content" purchase through our advertising team.