Alameda County Sheriff's Office rolls out text to 911

ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- The Alameda County Sheriff's Office Dispatch Center receives approximately 4,000 911 calls every month.

"Petty theft to major crime," said Brenda Bruner, manager for Emergency Services Dispatch.

Beginning Monday, the center is now equipped to also receive texts to 911.

"Obviously, we want you to call if you can call but we want you to text if you have to," said Sheriff Gregory Ahern.

"It'll be a good thing, just to make that available for the speech impaired, deaf, hard of hearing community," said Bruner.

Dispatchers recall times text to 911 would have made a difference, including during home invasions or in instances of domestic violence or abuse.

"We do use different tactics as far as is someone inside just press any button stay on the phone or just breathe into the phone so we'll know you're on the line but text in those instances would have helped a lot," said dispatcher Lucia Guzman.

The text to 911 is in its first phase and the system isn't perfect. If you text from a location that's close enough to the freeway the text will go to CHP. That agency then needs to route the text to the appropriate agency, a move that takes time.

The first question dispatchers ask is for the sender's location. The Text to 911 system is not GPS capable yet.

Dispatchers can choose questions to text back from a pre-populated drop-down menu or type their own.

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office is hoping this next generation 911 will expand to include text photos and videos.

"It's going to advance, it's going to grow and we'll grow with it," said Sheriff Ahern.

With recent swatting incidents, they are also discouraging people from prank 911 texts.

"You could be causing serious injury or death to someone that's an innocent victim," said Sheriff Ahern.

Richmond, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and CHP Golden Gate Division also have Text to 911.

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