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Deschutes County residents can now text 911


Deschutes County dispatch is increasing the number of ways you can ask for help. As of Monday, you can now text 911 for help, if you need to.

“If you’re absolutely in a position where you can’t safely talk to us, then you can text,” said dispatcher Nick Gill, “if someone has broke into your house, perhaps, and you’re hiding and trying to conceal yourself, and you feel like your voice might give away your location to an attacker.”

It’s also aimed at people who are deaf or hard of hearing. For now, only Sprint and U.S. Cellular customers can use the new technology, but other providers are expected to come onboard in the next few weeks.

The service does not support multimedia, including pictures, videos and emojis. Dispatchers also say it should not be a person’s first choice.

“We tell people right off the bat, ‘Call if you can — text if you can’t,'” Gill said.

The back and forth of texting burns valuable time and doesn’t provide the same information a call can.

“We get a lot of our information now by hearing what’s being said, not only by our callers, but by the noises in the background,” Gill said, “cues that we can pick up on on the phone, that we can’t pick up on through our 911 text capabilities.”

Texting 911 is meant to give another option, not be a replacement for a phone call.

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