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Denton 911 service: ‘Call if you can, Text if you can’t’

Denton 911 service: ‘Call if you can, Text if you can’t’

Denton 911 service: ‘Call if you can, Text if you can’t’
November 02
17:45 2016

It’s been a couple of weeks since Denton County started implementing the new integrated system that allows citizens to text 911. The service was delayed for two years due to software developmental, but it’s ready for Denton now.

“It’s a great idea because there are times where you do not want to make noise,” Denton police spokesman Orlando Hinojosa said. “A lot of people would rather text than talk on the telephone so it doesn’t have to be a situation where you have to text. If that’s what you prefer to do, then do it.”

Texting 911The beginning of the new service started in 2014 when the FCC recommended that all 911 call centers have systems that supported texting. By late 2014, Denco, the company that manages Denton’s texting 911 service, was ready to begin receiving texted service requests. But the board of directors opted to wait for the integrated version of texting that would work with the software already in place.

Airbus DS Communication, the software vendor, estimated 6 months in having the system ready but due to software delays it wasn’t ready until now. Training began early September to give call-receivers a chance to see the system and interact with the software before press releases were sent out early October.

The system is similar to the Telecommunication Device for the Deaf used in all 911 call centers as required by the American Disabilities Act, which made the transition smoother. The TDD allows people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired to communicate by typing a message that is sent by the phone line and received as a text by the call-receivers.

“What most early adopters of texting 911 have discovered is that most people when caught in an emergency situation and need help find it very comforting to hear a human being’s voice, someone that’s going to comfort you and reassure you,” executive director of Denco Mark Payne said.

They have seen people use the service for situations such as suspicious behavior, nuisance, domestic violence or where a person finds themselves unable to talk due to the danger of giving away their location. Police said they have not seen a decline in calls or dramatic increase in texts.

Still, Mark Payne stressed importance of “call if you can, text if you can’t,”

“A voice conversation tends to be shorter start-to-finish than a text conversation because of the texting speed versus talking speed,” Payne said. “With voice calls, the call-receiver can hear what is happening in the background and sometimes that can be useful information.”

In situations where the person calling in is in an environment where things are escalating quickly, the call-receiver can send more units because they can hear that the situation needs it. Denco discourages people to use ‘slang’ or abbreviations in text messages made to 911 because the emergency may be misinterpreted. They added the caller should always state the location and the type of emergency. 

“It allows us to see which path to take to better assist the citizen in their emergency,” Payne said.

Officer Shane Kizer of the city of Denton is happy with the new service.

“It is another way to help and serve our citizens that allows us to help those caught in situations where they can’t speak or to those with hearing disabilities,” Officer Shane Kizer said.

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Crystal Arevalo-Vazquez

Crystal Arevalo-Vazquez

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