Zach Donnenfield / Mustang News

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office announced it is currently in the process of training staff to respond to text messages to 911. 

While some police departments in the county will put this service into effect immediately, Cal Poly’s University Police Department (UPD) and the Paso Robles Police Department are hoping to roll out their systems by November.

The new technology’s slogan, “Call if you can – text if you can’t,” was developed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow people to text 911 if they can’t voice call the number.

UPD Records Manager and Dispatch Supervisor Patty Cash-Henning trains dispatchers and takes 911 calls herself. She said the new technology adds to the ways people can get emergency help.

“It’s another tool for the students and staff in certain situation[s] … it certainly would help if there was a break-in and you were hiding in your closet … or even in a domestic violence situation,” Cash-Henning said.

The text-to-911 option is not only designed for hearing and speech-impaired individuals, but also for individuals in situations where it is too dangerous to make a phone call. 

When texting 911, do not include other contacts in the message. Use plain language, refrain from using abbreviations and emojis and do not send photos or videos. 

Additionally, cell phones can’t be roaming and texts must be sent in English only. There is currently no language interpretation available, but that option is being developed.

The program was funded by the California Office of Emergency Services and will be in effect at eight law enforcement and fire agencies in San Luis Obispo County by Nov. 10. 

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