SPOKANE, Wash. – Back in February KREM 2 discovered that the majority of text messages sent to 911 in Spokane County were bogus.
The option to text 911 in Spokane County has been available for about a year and half now. In that time, Spokane County 911 Dispatchers said they have only received 60 documented cases where someone texted 911 in a real emergency. But for those 60 cases, texting for help was the only option.
"If you think about those 60, it could've been something that we never even would've heard about or the police never would've known about just because they weren't able to call,” Theresa McCollum with Spokane County 911.
Dispatchers said they have seen people text in for several different crimes in progress.
“The thing that comes to mind most is the in progress burglaries when you're in the house and hiding. We haven't seen a lot of those, it's definitely happened. A lot more that we are seeing is domestic violence situations when they're in the same room as the person or they just feel unsafe with the person,” McCollum explained.
They said the 911 text services is most commonly used though during traffic emergencies.
“We're getting a lot of reckless drivers or DUIS where the people are sitting right next to them, maybe the person is drunk driving the car and they feel like it's safer to text rather than call and say, ‘Hey, I'm in a car with a drunk driver,’” said MCCollum.
This happened in the case of a reckless driver on Sprague Avenue in Spokane Valley. Court documents said 911 received a text message from a woman who said she was a passenger inside a car that was involved in a hit and run. Documents said the woman was able to provide 911 with updates via text message. So deputies could find the location of the car on the road and arrest the reckless driver. In this situation, the woman would likely not have been able to call 911 because she was in the same car as the suspect. This case is just one example of how the texting service helped law enforcement respond quickly.
So how does it work? Simply text 911 like you would any other number. If you can provide your location and briefly explain your emergency in the first text messages, it helps dispatch get help to you faster.