Local 911 center coordinators meet together every 3 months in Oakland County. We share information, policies and other items of mutual interest. We have LOTS of items of mutual interest since we are all on one radio system and we share a computer aided dispatch software system and police records system. These systems are subdivided by community but ultimately one big system. One of the largest of its kind in the country.
One important item of interest is how the texting to 911 is going with the Sheriff’s Office since it began in January 2015. Today their dispatch center director, Mel Maier, reported on how it has been going. He said that in the 1st 30 days they had 57 texts and of those 36 were determined to be non emergency or accidental. Of the “actual” emergencies 3 cases stood out. One was a deaf boy who was seeking help for his mother after a car crash and the others were situations where the person would have been in danger had they called so they texted.
You might recall that the Sheriff’s Office is taking all of the texts for all of Oakland County right now because there are problems in determining location of the emergency given the technology we have. It is better right now if one center handles it all and they can work directly with the 4 main cellular carriers. The OCSO calls our center if the text is determined to be in our community for us to respond. In the first 30 days there was 1 call for Auburn Hills. Right now they cannot forward it to our center–they must call us by phone.
A couple of things have been learned and I wanted to pass those along to you, the users:
1. If you are near a county border it is very possible your text won’t be routed to Oakland County, particularly if you are moving from one county into the next as in a car on I-75. You would have to reboot your phone so that your text would be re routed. Cumbersome, I know.
2. You must check the privacy settings on your phone if you want to text to us. Quite a few of the texts directed them to a Verizon store in Southfield because that is where the phones were activated. When the owners changed the privacy settings that was the last place the phone was seen to be active.
3. If you have a wi-fi extender in your house or your phone’s texting capability switches to your wi-fi from the cellular carrier we may have trouble finding you. We’ve had some come to us from out of state.
4. They can only accept SMS messages. Not multi media including photos or video that is all the networks can support at this time. If you have a photo or video you want to share you will have to call your local PD who may be able to rig up a way for you to transmit your item to them. (That is what we do).
I know it isn’t a perfect system. We don’t have all of the same capabilities as Google –we are government and are dollars are a bit more limited. So call us when you need us and text us only when you have no other alternative.