Text-to-911 feature coming soon to Kern County

Text-to-911 feature coming soon to Kern County »Play Video
A Bakersfield, Calif., police dispatcher is seen Monday, May 19, 2014. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — With Americans sending nearly 6 billion texts a day and over 2.2 trillion a year, it seems only natural that when an emergency strikes many people would want to grab their cellphone and text 911 for help.
So far, only a limited number of municipalities in 16 states, not including California, are currently equipped to respond to emergency texts.

That option moved closer to reality this past week, when the four major wireless carriers - Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile - rolled out a text-to-911 feature.
Sgt. Joe Grubbs with the Bakersfield Police Department said in the near future, local dispatchers will be able to respond to 911 text messages.
“Instead of them calling in and making that call for help and assistance, they could text it across on their cellular device,” said Grubbs.
Grubbs said the service with BPD should be up and running within the next three to five months.
"Our equipment is available and can accept that. There's still some communication that needs to take place and some bugs to work out before it can come online," he said.
While text-to-911 will make a significant difference in the future, emergency officials said the option should only be used by those who are hearing or speech impaired, or are in a dangerous situation where picking up the phone to call just isn't an option.
"We’ll get it to the officers that are out there and say this person is a crying, screaming citizen, we're not able to get much because they're under a lot of stress. We have a location this is what's going on that we can hear in background,” said California Highway Patrol dispatcher Kimberly Murch, describing the advantages of a call, and not a text, to 911.
Operators fear callers rarely offer all the important details initially and need to be asked for more information, which is why calling will remain the preferred way to contact 911.
Grubbs said in this day and age though, keeping up with technology is key.
"I think that this is really the way of communication going into the future, much more so than talking on the cellphone,” said Grubbs.
The Kern County Sheriff's Office and Kern County CHP expect to have their text-to-911 systems up in 2015.