Official shares benefits of 911 text alert used to report Henrico active shooter hoax

Local News

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A prank about an active shooter at Moody Middle School in Henrico County caused fear and confusion Monday. Police have since identified a juvenile person of interest in the case.

That prank call came in as a Text-to-911, a function which rolled out in Henrico County in June 2018.

“The text came in, we tried to make contact with the person but I’m unsure if they responded at all,” said Administrative Communications Supervisor at the Henrico Emergency Communications Center Rebekah Taylor.

Taylor said it is always better to call 911 instead of texting, but the Text-to-911 feature can be a great option if a person is hard of hearing or in a situation where they cannot make a phone call.

“We’ve had calls where people have had domestic situations,” Taylor said, “We understand if you’re not able to call and we handle it the same exact way as we would if someone were to call in.” 

If someone wants to use the feature, all they have to do is text their emergency to the number “911.” The message automatically goes to dispatchers who can answer or transfer the message to another nearby jurisdiction.

Dispatchers can type a message back or choose from a list of automated replies. Taylor said the biggest challenge with Text-to-911 is identifying the address of the emergency if the person does not provide it.

“We’re able to use subscriber information from the cell phone. We also, with the amount of resources that we have, are able to do a phone search of the history if someone previously called in,” she said.

Henrico ECC is accepting applications for new 911 Public Safety Dispatchers from Jan. 17 to March 2. To apply, you can click here.

Stay with 8News for the full report at 5 p.m.

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