You can now text 911 to reach emergency responders in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. This region is one of the first in California to get the service as it rolls out across the state.
Donny Harris says having this makes him feel a lot safer. He’s been deaf for most of his life. So when his mom fell at her home in Santa Cruz last year, he wasn’t sure how to contact 911.
“So I did have to try to use a phone. I just basically left it off the hook and knew they’d be able to find where we lived,” signed Harris as Megan Kemp interpreted for him.
It was that kind of situation that drove the tri-county area to launch the Text to 911 service. It also helps people who can’t speak well. Or those in remote areas where only texting works.
Dennis Kidd heads up Santa Cruz Regional 911. He says the service will also help when people don’t want to be heard, like in an active shooter situation, domestic violence or this recent call they got.
“They were whispering so low because they didn’t want the person on the other side of the door to hear them that we couldn’t really hear them or understand them. So we asked them to text us,” Kidd said.
When you text to 911, a dispatcher will be on the other end. Vicki Runyon is a dispatcher for Monterey County Emergency Communications. She says initially, texting will be a bit slower than calling.
“Texting, it’s a little bit delayed, it’s not in your ear, you have to read everything,” Runyon said.
Also, location accuracy isn’t always as good as calling. And if you’re roaming or the text can’t get through, it will bounce back with a message saying ‘call 911’. That’s why the motto of this new program is “Call if you can; Text if you can’t”.
Monterey County Emergency Communications is hiring. Call 831-755-5115 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org to apply.