People living in Manassas Park and surrounding jurisdictions should have the option of texting 911 for help in case of emergencies, said Jeanette Rishell, who is running for Manassas Park City Council.
“Wireless customers in Vermont are already participating in a six-month trial in which they may send a text message to 911 for emergency assistance,” Rishell said.
“I believe it would be in the best interests of the residents of Manassas Park as well as other jurisdictions in Virginia, if inquiry were made as to the feasibility of implementing this type of process. Manassas Park could be a catalyst for this in a forward thinking and proactive way.”
While the system is a good idea, it does have its limitations, she said.
There's a 160-character limit and, of course, typing a message and waiting for a response from the dispatcher takes longer than placing a call, Rishell said. Plus, the messenger has to provide his or her location, she added.
Texting 911 could be a failsafe for residents if the 911 call system should fail as it did last week after the June 30 derecho damaged Verizon's communication lines, she said.
E-911 dispatch went offline in Fairfax County, Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park.
The service was restored in Fairfax County less than 24 hours after the storm, but the other aforementioned jursidictions continued experiencing problems for several days, Prince William County Communications Director Jason Grant said in an earlier report.
For example, a person would call 911 from Manassas Park and the dispatcher who picked up would be miles away in another part of Northern Virginia, city and county officials said earlier this month.
"... While there were also some cell phone outages, our family had access to text (and voice) mobile phone communication long before our house phone service was restored," Rishell said.
Rishell said she joins Manassas Park Mayor Frank Jones and other leaders in the push for answers from Verizon as to why one of the most important numbers in the U.S. wasn't operational after the storm.