By Devin Fehely

SANTA CLARA (KPIX 5) — Parts of the Bay Area will now be able to text 911 for help, instead of calling.

Dispatchers say the new method could help keep you out of harm’s way.

There might be a time when you need the help of the men and women at Santa Clara’s 911 dispatch center, but perhaps a phone call just isn’t an option.

“Maybe, an intruder in the house and they’re hiding from the intruder,” said Santa Clara’s Communications Operations Manager Judi Dziuba. “And they feel like if they make a voice call, then they’re going to alert the intruder.”

Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and the California Highway Patrol have a solution for that very problem.

You can now send a text message to 9-1-1 and reach those law enforcement agencies, without making a call at all.

“In a perfect world, we would like them to text us their location and what the problem is, “Dziuba said. “‘I’m at 123 Main Street. Somebody is breaking into my house.’ That would be the perfect text to receive.”

A dispatcher can text back and forth with the person in need of help.

The only problem is that, for now, the service only works inside Santa Clara or Sunnyvale or along the freeway for the CHP.

So, what happens if you thought you were in Santa Clara or Sunnyvale when you sent the text message to 911 but were actually outside the city limits? You will get a bounce back message that says ‘Text 911 is not available’ and that you should call instead.

And the hope is that as the 911 dispatch software and technology improves, more and more cities will offer the service.

“It’s an imperfect technology solution,” Dziuba said. “But because the service is important enough, I felt that we needed to give it to our residents of Santa Clara.”

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