Text-to-9-1-1 Available in Yakima County - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Text-to-9-1-1 Available in Yakima County

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YAKIMA, WA - Getting a hold of 9-1-1 just got a lot easier in Yakima county. You don't even need to talk to a dispatcher. Technology is changing the way first responders operate.

Now you can text 9-1-1.

"It is similar to basic 9-1-1 when it first came out," said Brad Coughenour, Manager at SunComm 911 Communications. "You're going to need to know your address and more details because it's going to involve texting back and forth with one of the 9-1-1 call takers."

Yakima county is the eighth Washington county offering text to 9-1-1 emergency services. It's meant for callers who may jeopardize their safety by physically calling 9-1-1.

"Maybe domestic violence. Or somebody that can't dial, speak or hear, that's another thing. Or on the outside possibility of that they're in an area where they really don't have a cell phone signal" explained Coughenour.

One SunComm dispatcher said they get at least four 9-1-1 texts every day.

So how does it work?

"You put 911 in the "to" and you hit send and put your message out. Same as texting back and forth with your family members, your friends, or anybody else."

The first text people will get back from a dispatcher will ask them that if it is safe to voice call 9-1-1. The service does not have the ability to accept pictures or other types of media.

"You know this is just one more tool that can be used. If you see something, say something, and you can say it through text."

Response times for these text to 9-1-1 messages can vary. It depends on things like your cell phone carrier or how many people are on a cell phone tower at any given time.