Orlando shooting shines light on need for text to 911

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The tragedy in Orlando has some cities taking a hard look at the need to add text to 911 capabilities.

Inside the Pulse nightclub last month Eddie Justice frantically texted his mother to call 911. He was hiding in a bathroom. His message said, “Call police. I’m gonna die.” Sadly, he did.

Orlando, like the majority of U.S. cities, still doesn’t have the capability to receive text to 911 calls.

Too dangerous to talk? Some cities explore 911 texting

Here in Hampton Roads, only Virginia Beach, James City County and York County have it.

York Country was the first in the nation to launch it in December 2012. 10 On Your Side learned that they are averaging about 55 texts a year.

Virginia Beach launched just over a year ago in April 2015. Since last August, they’ve received 361 texts.

Virginia Beach Director of Emergency Communications, Stephen Williams, gave us an example of one recent case where a woman with a protection order used it.

“A lady’s boyfriend showed up at her house and while they were just sitting there on the couch talking, she was able to communicate with one of our call takers via text message and we were able to dispatch police to that.”

Emergency officials say a voice call is still best because they can get information more quickly. Also, with a text, your approximate location is not automatically sent to emergency responders.

They stress the slogan  “Call if you can, text if you can’t.”

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