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Incorporation Of Texting Spreads Across Pacific Northwest 911 Services

Flickr.com's Paul Bence

Starting Monday, December 12th, Deschutes County residents can text – rather than dial – 911 to call in emergencies.  KLCC’s Brian Bull explains. 

The phone call has been the standard since 911 was launched nationally in 1968.  But Stephen Reinke, Director of Deschutes County’s 911 Service, says they’re part of a growing network of emergency responders that are incorporating texting.

Reinke says there are instances where a text message is probably safest…like when there’s an intruder in one’s home, or if someone’s in an abusive relationship.

Credit Flickr.com's Nathan Rupert

"And we can respond back and forth with that person without hopefully alerting whoever they might be concerned about causing harm to them," he tells KLCC.  

"But we do encourage people to “Call if you can, text if you can’t”, because it’s far more efficient for us to process an emergency call over a voice call than it is going back and forth with texting.  Because in an emergency, seconds matter.” 

People texting 911 are advised to use full words, and to keep messages brief and concise.  Location and type of emergency are also crucial.

Several Lane County agencies were contacted as to whether the local 911 service uses texting or plans to soon.  None have responded so far. 

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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