Texting 911 possible in Uvalde County

Uvalde Police Department dispatcher Justin Mendoza takes a 911 call at his work station. UPD dispatchers direct calls to 14 other agencies. (Photo by Uvalde Police Department.)

Kimberly Rubio

Assistant Editor

Uvalde Police Department’s telecommunications department now has the capability to receive texts to 911. Since June 11, two people have taken advantage of the service.

A teenage boy texted 911 dispatchers two weeks ago to ask how to report a sexual assault. Dora Elia Trevino was the dispatcher who received the June 25 text, which resulted in the arrest of Galveston resident Mauricio Barrera, 38, on charges of indecency with a child/sexual contact.

According to the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office, Barrera allegedly inappropriately touched two teenage boys at a campground in Concan.

One June 14, an individual texted 911 to report a drug overdose. The ailing woman was taken to Uvalde Memorial Hospital via Uvalde EMS.

Only AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon customers can text 911. According to dispatch supervisor Myra Landry, when texting 911 individuals should first state their locations followed by a short summary of their problem using simple language.

“Do not use emojis, and do not attach videos or pictures,” Landry said, noting that doing so will result in a bounce-back message, which will advise the individual to contact emergency services by another means.

Bounce-back messages are intended to minimize the risk of mistakenly believing that a text to 911 has been transmitted to an emergency call center.

When her department receives a text to 911, Landry said their system rings just as a phone call would. Once answered, the text will display on their computer and they can text back using their keyboards. From there, telecommunicators will summon the appropriate first responder. Uvalde telecommunicators dispatch for 14 agencies, in addition to the UPD.

Despite this technology, Landry said when possible individuals should always call 911.

“The motto is, call when you can, text when you can’t,” she said, noting that she is glad to see people take advantage of the department’s texting service.

“It has already resulted in an arrest,” said UPD Chief Daniel Rodriguez, adding that UPD is the first agency within 12 public safety answering point in the department’s nine-county council of governments to receive texts to 911.

(The story does not continue beyond this line.)


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