Richmond is first city in Northern California to launch text 9-1-1

Starting this week, people in several Bay Area cities can now text 9-1-1 operators instead of just calling.  The city of Richmond is the first place in Northern California where you can text to reach out when you need help.

Richmond Police Lieutenant Felix Tan said, “It’s the next generation of dispatch.”  However, officers prefer people call 9-1-1 over texting.   They do understand there will be times when texting is the only possible way to report an emergency.  Tan says, “If you have no way to communicate by voice of course use the text 911. But if you can please call 911 and talk to a dispatcher.”

The texting system works the same as when you dial 9-1-1.  After a person texts their emergency, the message and the person's location goes to the city of Richmond's communication center.  Then the operator sends back a message asking the sender to call 9-1-1 if possible. 

One person we spoke to says having the option to text will come in handy when there are kids around.  “If you can text 9-1-1 when you have a classroom full of students, it's easier to keep them calm and not necessarily alert them to the situation,” says Michelle Flynn of Concord.  Another man from Castro Valley adds, ”the way that we communicate now has changed drastically even since a couple years ago. So one benefit people might be more comfortable communicating via text. “

Texting 911 will also benefit the hearing impaired; now the emergency is sent straight to the operator instead of an outside service who has to translate and then send the message to the call center. 

Besides Richmond, texting 9-1-1 also works in El Cerrito, Kensington and San Pablo.  Those areas are all served by the same call center that is operated by Richmond PD.  The service is only available in English right now but these departments are working to have it in other languages as well.