Texting 911 coming to some areas of W. WA

Texting 911 coming to some areas of W. WA

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

kgw.com

Posted on May 21, 2014 at 8:04 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 21 at 8:04 AM

Haylee McLucas found herself a victim in her own home.

She was on a date when the man she was with started forcing himself on her. She wanted to call 911 but was afraid what the man might do.

“I was scared. It was really intimidating,” she said.

It's a common problem for 911 dispatchers who say they often get calls from women who are in similar situations - either hiding from abusive men and too scared to speak into the phone,or people who are awakened in the night by an intruder.

“You can't hear them because they're whispering. So, it's harder to get the location and really what's happening,” said Tami Walthall, Kitsap 911 dispatcher.

Soon, in Kitsap County and jurisdictions in at least 15 other states, you'll be able to quietly and discreetly text 911 for help.

The system isn't without it's drawbacks, however. Unlike a 911 call, the operator can't use a phone connection to trace where you are.

Then there's the problem of pranksters and abuse.

“Often if someone makes prank call or a malicious call we can pick up on verbal cues. With texting we won't get those verbal cues,” said Richard Kirton, Kitsap 911 Director.

But for Haylee McLucas, it could've been a lifeline.

“So, I'm stuck here wondering, hoping he's not hurting anyone else,” she said.

King County is working to implement a 911 texting system by the end of the year on the Verizon network. It will likely be next year, at the earliest, for Kitsap County.

A next generation system will allow users to text pictures and video to 911 dispatchers. That is at least two years away.

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