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Texting 911 Instead Of Phone Call Is Sometimes A Better Option During Emergency

By Jennifer Brice

DENVER (CBS4) - State agencies are making it easier to get help to people during an emergency. Texting 911 can be just as life-saving as making a regular 911 call, but a lot of people may not know about the service. More and more counties and police agencies are implementing it.

In an emergency, not only do seconds matter, but so does reaching the person there to help like the dispatchers at the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office. ACSO not only handles traditional calls but also 911 texts. The texts, they say, come in for various reasons.

Julie Brookes with ACSO says people may use the text service because they're hearing impaired, have cellphone reception problems, or they can't physically talk to a dispatcher.

TEXT to 911 texting
(credit: CBS)

"If they're in a situation where they can't speak," said Brooks. "Perhaps they think someone is listening or someone might be in their home."

ACSO started using "Text-to-911" about a year ago. Many other agencies are working to implement it. It does require a software upgrade, which can be costly. A map shows who has it and who does not, which is important to know, so an emergency is being answered.

Cathy Raley is the Communications Manager for ACSO. She says an example of someone who recently used the 911 text system is a neighbor who wanted to help but not be directly involved.

"The neighbor was texting but she didn't want them to hear her so she texted us. We got there and it was a domestic situation," Raley said.

The 911 texting works as follows:

When the text is made to 911 it goes to a receiving area and within seconds that text is passed along to the right county and dispatch center, if the service is available. The first thing dispatchers want to know is your location, according to Raley.

"If they have an address or intersection so we can process and get that info into system and get someone on the way out there."

Then it's important to text the nature of the problem. ACSO says they average about eight 911 texts a month. They prefer a phone call, but texting an emergency is a valuable service that many people may not know is available.

TEXT to 911 texting operator
(credit: CBS)

"The more avenues that we can provide to the public to reach us," said Raley. "It's a good thing."

Not only does ACSO have 911 texting, but so does Larimer, Boulder, Jefferson, Elbert, El Paso and Teller counties. The Colorado 911 Resource Center website says the cities of Black Hawk and Thornton also have 911 texting.

For more information and the complete list, visit Also visit that site if you would like to request Text-to-911 in your area by notifying the Federal Communications Commission.

Jennifer Brice is a reporter with CBS4 focusing on crime and courts. Follow her on Facebook or on Twitter @CBS4Jenn.

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