Local dispatchers now taking Text 911 calls

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) Dispatchers at the Regional Public Safety Dispatch Center in Reno take all kinds of emergency calls every day. But these days they will be using their keyboards for more than just inputting information. They will also be using those keyboards to communicate via text.

“It actually is a governmental requirement for ADA. It enhances the way people with disabilities can communicate with emergency services,” says Erin Yeung, Supervisor with Regional Public Safety Dispatch.

You don't have to be hearing- or speech-impaired to use the Text 9-1-1. But if you choose to text to report an emergency, dispatchers want you to place the location and type of emergency in the first line of communication. That's because the text does not allow them to locate exactly where you are.

Other considerations and restrictions include:

The service will not go through if it is part of a group text.
It does not recognize emojis.
It will not recognize acronyms commonly used in texting
The system can only take texts, no other multi-media.
If you are outside the service area, your text will be bounced back.

While dispatchers recognize texting is now just part of communication, they also stress it may not necessarily be the most efficient or effective way to communicate, especially in an emergency.

Calls could take twice as long to process using the text method.

“And it is hard to get that feeling and emotions through too. If I am coaching somebody or trying to help someone that is in need and giving them support and telling them it is going to be okay, it is really hard to translate that to text,” says Yeung.

The new slogan for Text to 911: "Call if you can." "Text if you can’t."

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