Photo courtesy of United States Marine Corp.
A police officer wears a body camera as he conducts a routine traffic stop on Friday, Feb 2. Reno residents now have the ability to text 9-1-1 due to improved technology.

Washoe county improves technology to contact emergency services

The cities of Reno, Sparks and Carson City, as well as the rest of Washoe County, is expanding the way its residents can contact emergency services. Washoe County now allows an option for someone to text emergency services instead of calling.

While this new technology is advantageous in certain emergency situations, PSAPs encourage citizens to text only when you are unable to make a voice call to 9-1-1.” The City of Reno said in a press release on September 11, 2018, “Voice calls to 9-1-1 are still the best and fastest way to get help during an emergency.”

In 2014, National 911 Program worked with “the four largest wireless service providers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon)… the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APCO)…and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA)…to provide 911 call centers with the ability to receive texts.”

The ability to send text to emergency services have helped disabled Americans. Those with hearing and speaking disabilities can have a more viable option to contact 9-1-1.

A study by ROI and Ottawa County in 2017 saw 11,057 text were initiated with 9-1-1 callers from January 2015 to August 2016. The same study found that 60 percent of drop calls, 20 percent of domestic violence, 10 percent of suicide attempts and 10 percent of well-being checks were resolved by SMS Chat.

A study by Aaron Smith, the Associate Director of Research of PewInternet, saw that “[t]exting is the most widely-used and frequently used app on a smartphone, with 97% of Americans using it at least once a day. 55% (percent) of heavy text message users…say they would prefer to receive a text over a phone call.”

The City of Reno said the technology of text is still limited to its use. Some of these restrictions include Text-to-911 cannot receive photos or videos of crimes being committed, a text may receive a “bounce back” if the program is out of service, users must have a data plan and texts cannot be tracked with the program.

Taylor Johnson can be reached at or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.