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City Plans To Let You Text — And Send Photos, Video — To 911 To Get Help

By Heather Cherone | April 24, 2017 3:17pm | Updated on April 26, 2017 11:52am
 Office of Emergency Management and Communications Executive Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau speaks at the City Club of Chicago.
Office of Emergency Management and Communications Executive Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau speaks at the City Club of Chicago.
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DOWNTOWN — Chicagoans will soon be able to text 911 for help — and to send photos and videos to give police officers and firefighters an immediate look at the situation, city officials said Monday.

Alicia Tate-Nadeau, the executive director of Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications, made the announcement during a speech at the City Club of Chicago.

Those photos and videos will be "invaluable" and will "tell first responders exactly what they are getting ready to go into," Tate-Nadeau said.

"They say a picture is worth 1,000 words," Tate-Nadeau said. "That's really true."

The city will soon ask companies to bid to provide the "next generation" of 911 computer-aided dispatch system, Tate-Nadeau said. That system — which must be in place by 2020 under federal rules — will replace a 20-year-old system “clearly past its time to be replaced,” she added.

The new system will also be more reliable and will be designed to withstand a cyber attack, Tate-Nadeau said.

However, Tate-Nadeau did not provide any details about when that system will be in place, or how much it is expected to cost. A spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications did not immediately respond to questions from DNAinfo.

In addition, the city is in the process of upgrading the 311 system, which is designed to field non-emergency calls for service and information, Tate-Nadeau said.

The city's new 311 system will no longer be landline-based and allow police and other city employees to respond to calls for service "in real time," officials said.

RELATED: City To Sell Goose Island Yard To Pay For New 311 System, Rahm Says

Residents will be able use a mobile app or to text a request to have a pothole filled or make a complaint, Tate-Nadeau said. In addition, aldermen and other government officials will be able to track those requests to get a sense of what issues are facing residents.

"This will revolutionize" government, Tate-Nadeau said.

In 2015, Emanuel proposed privatizing the city's 311 system in an effort to save $1 million but dropped it in the face of unyielding opposition from the City Council.

During the debate over the budget, Emanuel said the move was also designed to avoid paying about $30 million in technology upgrades the city's non-emergency call center needs.

Watch Tate-Nadeau's full speech here: