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September 21, 2020
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City of RP

Deputy Chief Public Safety Aaron Johnson
City of Rohnert Park Dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency
September 18, 2020

9-1-1 is the number you call in your darkest hour and it is the voice on the other end of the line that can help you through whatever situation you are facing. The Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety is now offering Text to 9-1-1 services for our residents who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability, or who cannot safely call 9-1-1 in a dangerous situation. 

Dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency is still the preferred way to request help, and the public is reminded to “Call if you can, text if you can’t.”  For most people, sending a text to 9-1-1 will not replace making a call.  Appropriate scenarios for texting 9-1-1 could include the following: 

• Deaf, hard of hearing callers or individuals with a speech disability

• The caller is unable to speak due to a medical issue or other condition

• When speaking out loud would put the caller in danger, such as a home invasion, an abduction, a domestic violence incident or an active-shooter scenario.

“Call if you can, text if you can’t” is the slogan developed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as the new technology makes its debut in parts of California.

Text to 9-1-1 requires a cell phone that has the capability to send text messages and location services must be enabled. While currently, the texting service is only available in English, other language solutions are in development and will be implemented as soon as they become available. Similarly, the system cannot receive photos and videos at this time.

When you are texting 9-1-1 in an emergency, be sure to include clear location information and the type of help you need (police, fire, or medical) in the initial 9-1-1 message. Emergency personnel cannot always determine your location. Following your initial text, you may need to answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call dispatcher. Stay on the text until the dispatcher closes the dialog —if it is safe to do so. Make sure to keep your text messages clear and brief but should not include abbreviations, emojis, or slang. 

• You cannot include 9-1-1 in a group text.

• If you are roaming, text service is dependent on the roaming service of your provider.

• Don’t forget to silence your phone if you don’t want to be heard.

• Do not text and drive.

Text to 9-1-1 does have limitations, as it only works in cities that provide the service. The entire state of California will be able to text to 911 by January 1, 2021. Most cities and areas are already offering this service —including Cotati, Windsor, Sonoma State University and the County of Sonoma. Also, unlike a voice call, text messages are not real-time communication and are subject to issues such as messages being received out of order or being delayed to carrier limitations and volume. 

For more information about Text to 9-1-1 services in Rohnert Park, please contact Communications Supervisor Denise Wallace-Hinton (707) 584-2651 or dwallace@rpcity.org.