911Texting 911 in emergencies

Published 29 November 2011

The Post Falls police department in Idaho is testing a new 911 system that would allow residents to report emergencies via text message or e-mail

 

The Post Falls police department in Idaho is testinga new 911 system that would allow residents to report emergencies via text message or e-mail.

Police say it is not meant to replace phone calls, but is instead designed to provide residents with additional options to communicate with authorities.

Texting or e-mailing is particularly helpful for the hearing impaired or those with disabilities that make it difficult to communicate over the phone.

Charlene Holbrook, PFPD’s emergency communications supervisor, hopes that the new text-based 911 option will encourage young people to interact with the police more. 

Texting allows them a method of communication with which most teens are comfortable,” Holbrook said. “Texting was the next logical step for us.”

Whether you like it or not, it’s obvious that the future of communication is texting,” Chief Scot Haug added. “You look at young people today and that’s the method of communication. Text messaging is here, and everybody’s using it. We are just looking for new ways to get information to solve and reduce crime.”

The new system also allows photos to be sent to 911 dispatchers.

A photo can be worth 1,000 words,” Holbrook said.

Once a text is received at the Post Falls dispatch center, the operator will communicate with the sender to gather any additional information needed. In addition, police officers will be able to view the text and any other relevant information from the laptops in their patrol car.

The new system brings Post Falls one step closer to the Next Generation 911 system, which would allow emergency reporting via text.

“Although the standards are still being developed nationwide, we are gradually working toward NG911,” Holbrook said. “The technology is here.”

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