DALLAS (1080 KRLD) – The city of Dallas is rolling out a new 911 system Tuesday that allows people to text for help, and dispatchers are getting some advice from a nearby agency that has been using the technology for several years.
Paige Sandlin, a dispatcher with the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office, knows the system all to well. On May 25, 2017, she got a call for help and it was unlike anything she had seen in her career. It was a text message and it simply said, “help.” Sandlin pressed for more information, sending a text back asking “what’s going on?” The woman on the other end responded, “shot three tknes [times]” and later said “kidnap us.” Shortly after that, deputies were in pursuit. Sandlin didn’t know it at the time, but the text was real.
The woman had been shot inside of an RV, and the man accused of pulling the trigger was driving her and her kids to an unknown location. She ended up jumping out of the RV while it traveled along I-30 near Caddo Mills. He kept going, and made it all the way to Arlington before officers spiked his tires and the RV went up in flames. The children were rescued. He stayed in the RV and died.
“If they’re in a really bad situation and cannot show they are on the phone, text messaging might be the only way they can communicate with us,” Sandlin told KRLD. “We handle it as we would any call. We hear it go off, and we automatically begin treating it as an actual emergency until we know what’s going on.”
Although Dallas will launch the new system Tuesday, it’ll take another two to three months before people can start texting for help.
“I definitely think texting 911 is a good thing. We may not know exactly what’s going on, but we at least know where we need to go to figure it out,” said Sandlin.