BEND, OR -- Deschutes County will roll out an extended 911 service in a couple of weeks, with the launch of Text To 911. Director Steve Reinke says, "Text To 911 is a valuable resource if somebody is under duress or in a situation where they can’t call 911," he tells KBND News, "Or if they’re in a very fringe area that cell service isn’t working but a text can get through."
The service rolled out across eight agencies in Portland, Salem and Astoria, last summer. Reinke says it took extra time to bring it here. "We’re a little behind the Valley in getting Text To 911 service because we had to wait for the replacement of our 911 phone system. Our old system was about eight-years-old and at the end of its life; and we received funding earlier this year to replace the system, and that just got completed a couple of weeks ago."
It'll go on line in Deschutes County December 12, but Reinke says some mobile carriers may take longer to activate the service. "What we really want people to do, if they decide to use this service, is to text us their location and what service they need with that first text, if at all possible." He says that will help emergency crews respond quickly.
Even with the new technology, the agency
stresses that talking to a 911 dispatcher is still preferred, using the mantra "Call if you can, text if you can't." Reinke says, "It’s much more efficient to handle 911 calls in an emergency situation, especially, over the phone with two-way voice conversation. If people do text 911, we will send a request or a question ‘can you safely communicate with us by voice?’ And, if the answer is yes, we will transition to a 911 call as soon as possible."
The network is not digital, so Reinke asks users to steer clear of sending photos, videos or emojis.