Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Los Angeles County may join other jurisdictions in providing technology for residents to text-message 911 emergency dispatchers.

Text-to-911 technology is already being used in some counties in New York, Texas, Ohio and at least 13 other states, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

“As the largest municipality in the country and the ultimate safety net for its residents, it is Los Angeles County’s duty to ensure that every single resident is able to reach 911 services in the event of an emergency,” Supervisor Don Knabe said.

Knabe, with the support of the full board, asked staffers to report back on the feasibility of setting up a Next Generation 911 emergency communications system.

Adopting the technology could help save victims of sex trafficking or kidnapping who might not be able to call 911 without their captors overhearing, Knabe said. It would also aid residents who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability.

In August, the FCC voted to require all cellular service providers to support texts to 911 by year-end.

The commission stressed that text messages should be a complement to — and not a substitute for — calls to 911. Emergency services personnel can ask for location information on a call. Dispatchers may also be better able to assess the emergency based on background noise and the emotional state of the caller.

In September, Gov. Jerry Brown asked the state’s Office of Emergency Management to set up a timeline to test the text-to-911 technology.

A report back from county staffers is expected in 45 days.

City News Service

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