In March of 2014, the city of Pittsburg began collecting the Public Safety Operations Sales tax, after being approved by citizens.
Over the years, the funds from this tax have allowed the city to make important improvements to public safety systems and resources.
One of the newer services made available is the capability to text-to-9-1-1 in situations where it may be safer to call then to call for emergency services.
“We always try to stay abreast of the technology and the text-to-9-1-1 capability is not new stuff, it’s been around for a while,” said Jay Byers, deputy city manager. “We didn’t have the capability to do that with our old system and then we asked the citizens to approve tax… this has allowed us to upgrade both our hardware and software so we would have that text to 911 capability.”
This text capability comes with new upgrades to the public safety network make possible with funds from the Public Safety Operations Sales Tax.
“The tax gives us resources to actually improve our network…as well as communication components… so that we could do this upgrade and we can provide more functions to the public.” Byers said.
The system is already in place and available for use by the public, after undergoing testing by the city and police departments.
“We strongly encourage people to use it now, if the situation warrants it,” Byers said. “It’s been available for a while but was being tested. We didn’t want to fully start promoting it until we had tested it ourselves and we’ve made sure things were ready as we needed different policy and procedures for it to run… and we wanted to test that all out before we made a strong push for it.”
Byers said the system is the same as if making a 9-1-1 call and should only be used in emergencies, as with a 9-1-1 call. If possible, Byers said it is best to continue making 9-1-1 calls on the phone.
“…the dispatchers would prefer a voice call because that way… there are a lot of subtle things in voices in an emergency that the dispatchers are trained to work with, and you can’t get that through text,” Byers said.
There are many benefits for the new text-to-9-1-1 system.
“For one, it uses low bandwidth,” Byers said. “But the primary beneficiaries… tend to be those people who may be in a domestic situation where they can’t use their voice and it may be safer for them to text… those are the people who will probably benefit the most.”
Byers felt the use of the system was right for the current world.
“There’s a great deal of… people are comfortable using their phones so it’s ubiquitous now… everybody has their phone, and everyone can text information,” Byers said. “Those situations (where it’s not safe to call) come up and we wanted to make sure the public has that capability…”
Bailey Kenny, senior in communication, is excited about the new system and thinks it will prove useful in a variety of situations and makes her feel safer.
“I think it is in situations where you’re unable to speak up and use your voice and in situations like that, I think it’s (text-to-9-1-1) a good idea,” Kenny said. “Knowing that there is a way to get a hold of help without physically speaking… makes me feel a little more comfortable.”
Jaylee Hekel, freshman in nursing, also thinks the new system is positive for the Pittsburg community.
“It’s good to have, just for safety because sometimes if you’re in a bad situation you can’t call them so this would make it easier on some people,” Hekel said.
The new system comes as part of a large renovation to the public safety system made available by the safety sales tax. According to Byers, there are plans for further enhanced public safety features.
“The equipment and software we’ve purchased with the tax that has allowed the texting capability is also setting the platform for other features we’re looking at… start sending pictures and videos… there is a lot… The tax has been a real benefit to use as we’ve been able to have more police officers, they’re going to be getting body cams soon..,” Byers said.