Fight for 911 texting continues in Valley

Posted at 4:55 AM, May 24, 2017

As a lawsuit moves forward to bring text-to-911 technology to the Valley, the first Arizona city to offer it is seeing success.

In domestic violence situations "a voice message may not be practical," Lake Havasu Police Sgt. Tom Gray told ABC15. "It gives victims of domestic violence a way to communicate," he said.

The city debuted its text-to-911 service on April 4th. Since then, Gray says they've received 11 messages. Some were accidental but at least one proved useful in a suspected drunken driving situation, he said.

The launch of the service occurred as a federal lawsuit moves forward here in the Valley.

"We definitely support what Lake Havasu City did and we're glad they made their system more accessible," said attorney Asim Dietrich with the Arizona Center for Disability Law. Dietrich is helping represent three deaf or hard of hearing people in a lawsuit against several cities, Maricopa County and the state, alleging the lack of a text-to-911 system constitutes discrimination.

"The Americans with Disabilities Act provides that public entities, government entities, have to provide meaningful access to their services," he said.

Maricopa County's regional fire dispatch center is in the process of upgrading to a 'next gen' 911 system which would provide the necessary hardware to allow text messages.

Phoenix Deputy Fire Chief Shelly Jamison says they've been weighing funding and available technology "for years" and are hoping to implement it at some point. Jamison was unable to provide details about what the system would cost or a timeframe, but did say since the center handles multiple regions, rolling out a text system is substantially more difficult.