911 is about to get another upgrade in Kern County.
In instances of domestic violence, kidnapping, or home invasion, it’s potentially dangerous to even be heard making a call.
But now, texting 911 has become the most discreet way to alert police in emergencies. And, it’s the best option for those with hearing and speech impairments.
Texting 911 is a system that’s been years in the making. California has mandated the feature to be implemented statewide by the end of the year.
“There have been instances where we had someone who was a victim of human trafficking. They texted 911,” said Damian Nord, the Kern Sheriff’s Commander. “They had access to a phone, but they obviously could not call.”
To text 911, simply put 9-1-1 in the “to” field of a message. Then send your exact address and describe your situation.
On the other end, dispatch will ask you some questions over text, and they will always ask before they call you.
“I will keep you in the text session with me until I know the deputies are there, and that they’re with you, and that you’re safe,” explained Tami Kimbrell, a senior dispatcher and 911 coordinator.
However, the text feature can only be used in English, up to 160 characters. According to Kimbrell, Kern County has a 55 percent Spanish-speaking population, and about nine percent is Asian-Indian.
“They’ve been trying to obtain translation services for a while, however, the technology just can’t meet the languages,” Kimbrell responded.
Also, with no plans to increase staff, dispatch says it can handle no more than four texts at a time.
“If you can call, please call. Do not text unless it is the absolute last resort because we only have four sessions,” Nord said.
In addition, location is more accurately pinpointed through a phone call, which is especially helpful if you don’t know your location.
The texting feature comes about two months after Smart911 went live in Kern County, where you can put your medical information in a database for emergencies.