How to Text 911 in an Emergency

Is it possible to text 911? Fortunately, the answer is yes.

You don’t have to call immediately in an emergency, but you may send a text message instead of calling 911. In 2014, police services across the United States began a program that enables you to text 911 in many locations; today, over 1,000 9-1-1 call centers have incorporated it.

Texting 911 could be a life-saver, no matter whether it’s your only choice. In certain situations, even if it is best to call emergency services, such as because texting 911 is restricted in some states, text-to-911 may be a lifesaving option. Literally. Here’s everything you need to know about how to text 911 in an emergency and what to do when you hit send.

  1. In the number field of your phone’s messages section, type 911.
  2. Write a 911 text message describing the nature of the situation you’re experiencing.
  3. Send your message.
  4. Text Conversation with the 911
  1. In the number field of your phone’s messages section, type 911.

Type 911 in the number field of your phone’s messages section.

Make sure that you can send or receive text messages. Dial your phone’s number or click “Send” or “Call” if you do not see a typed message with 911 as the first entry.

  1. Write a 911 text message describing the nature of the situation you’re experiencing.

Send a text message to 911 to report the nature of the problem you’re having. If you have time, include these items.

  • What the emergency is: Include information about anybody who has been injured, whether there are weapons, and so on. Including as much information as possible in your first message will save time and prevent your phone screen from continuing to light up if you’re hiding.
  • Where you are: If you know the address, type it in, but, if possible, include any nearby landmarks as well. Don’t expect the 911 operator to be able to locate you based on your cellphone’s GPS right away. Not every 911 responder has this equipment. How is ensure that they know where you are? Typically, it’s best to include the full address if you know it, often on the back of your house or apartment building.
  • What kind of emergency help you require: On-call fire engines, ambulances, or cops.
  • What you should think about: When you contact 911, the operator who receives your text will usually respond to your initial text message asking you to call if possible. Include this in your first message if you can’t get through to dial for safety reasons so that both of you may save time and end the conversation sooner.
  1. Send your message.

Send your message. After you’ve started a text conversation with the 911 operator, you may inquire about how to help any victims in front of you if there is first aid that you can start to administer as a follow-up.

  1. Text Conversation with the 911

Please be patient, especially during peak emergencies. The 9-1-1 call taker will do their best to get your initial text message out as quickly as possible.

  • When you get the initial text, confirm that you are still in the area.
  • Check for adequate network coverage.
  • Keep monitoring handset to supply information through text conversation with 911.
  • Your conversation with 911 ends when you receive a message indicating that the call is concluded. If you still have information to supply, you may initiate a new text session to re-establish the connection.

What Happens When You Text 911?

What Happens When You Text 911

911 call centers see all types of emergencies. Some are more likely associated with text messages, like overdoses or severe injuries.

If you’re on the road and there is no way for emergency responders to reach you in person, it may be possible to direct emergency services to your location by sending them a message online.

Some locations use Wireless Priority Service (WPS), which allows sending a text message to connect with the local police department.

As of 2018, this is an option in some major cities like Los Angeles and New York City. If you can connect with 911 via SMS on your wireless carrier’s network, it may mean that they can also use WPS.

If you can’t connect to 911 via SMS on your mobile phone, you may be able to send a location-specific tweet.

When should You Text 911?

In some emergencies, you might not have the ability to use a mobile phone. In those cases, using text messages would be a good alternative.

Texting-to-911 is available in most major cities and many smaller ones as well. While it’s available nearly everywhere now, it may take years for carriers to upgrade all their equipment and add support in areas that need it.

What are the Areas Where Text to 911 is Available?

The FCC requires all wireless carriers to provide text-to-911 messages to emergency call centers that request them. Each call center has its approach for dealing with text-to-911 communications.

You may use the FCC’s registry to see whether any call centers in your region accept text-to-911 messages, which are updated monthly. The file is an Excel spreadsheet, but it will also launch on Pages if you’re using a Mac. Hundreds of entries exist, and you can look them up by entering your jurisdiction into the search bar.

If you’re trying to figure out which states you can text 911 from, look at the other side — what states you can’t text 911 from. The following are the states that are presently not included in the FCC’s registry of places where you may send emergency services:

  • Alaska
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota

Because each state has several levels of government, it’s critical to verify the current Excel spreadsheet personally to see if sending 911 messages is feasible in your location.

What Happens When You Text 911 in an Unsupported Area?

What Happens When You Text 911 in an Unsupported Area

If your area doesn’t allow texting 911, you’ll get a bounceback message from SMS Bots informing you that the transmission has failed. The FCC requires wireless carriers to send you this notice if you can’t text 911 in your region. The goal is that these alerts will keep you from believing your text was delivered to 911 when it wasn’t. If you get a return message after texting 9-1-1, you should call the emergency service rather than using SMS to text 9-1-1.

Even if your jurisdiction allows text-to-911, calling 911 is the most dependable method to get through.

Is it Possible to Send a Message even though the 911 Number is a Landline?

It might seem strange to text a landline number, but it is quite popular among customers of organizations and government services. If you run a business and don’t have text-to-landline enabled, you could be missing out on essential consumers who are texting you and not getting an answer.

You may also use a text-to-landline service to send two-way messages or mass texts from any phone number, even if it’s not connected to the government. When you turn on any number, including 911, with text-to-landline, you may also establish it to allow for two-way messaging or mass texting from that number. In this way, you can send automated messages to customers on the road or on vacation without needing a dedicated phone line for your business.

Is it Possible to Send a Message to 911 Anonymously?

You aren’t required to provide information if you’re using SMS. While it’s not possible to send a message without any identifying data, the communications center can block your number from their system. That way, they can’t call you back or send you any follow-up messages in case of an emergency.

The downside is that if you end up in an emergency where the agency doesn’t have your phone number to reach you, they may not know who to contact. Therefore, texting 911 anonymously could end up causing harm if you’re in a real danger zone.

What are the Advantages of Using Texting with 911?

When you call 911, if text-to-911 is enabled in your region, you’ll be connected to a dispatcher over text. Emergency services have many advantages when they switch to this method of communication. Here are the benefits of texting 911:

  • If you can’t talk, texting is the superior option if you’re in danger of your life or physical safety and don’t want to alert a controlling individual or intruder that you’re calling 911.
  • Open communication channels: In some cases, phone lines are jammed during a weather emergency, and SMS messages are still delivered. These situations might be your most excellent chance of getting through to an operator if you text 911.
  • Areas without cell phone service: If you’re in a remote location with poor service and can’t finish a call or stay connected long enough to explain your emergency, texting might help you get all of your information across more quickly.
  • People are often perplexed about how the deaf or hard of hearing contact emergency services. When it is feasible, the deaf or hard of hearing should utilize a TTY, but texting 911 might be helpful if it’s accessible in your area, and you’d want to use that route.

What are the Disadvantages of Using Texting with 911?

Is it possible to text 911? Yes, you can. Is it necessary to text 911? The answer is yes if that’s your only choice. Because there are certain disadvantages to texting 911, it’s best used as a last resort rather than a first option. Here are some of the drawbacks of messaging 911:

  • Not all phones are compatible: You can only text 9-1-1 via SMS messaging to and from U.S. numbers if you use a texting platform that supports SMS messaging to and from U.S. numbers (which is not all of them). It’s not possible to text 9-1-1 through apps that allow app users to send messages.
  • Limited resources at call centers. One of the difficulties with text-to-911 is that there may not be enough qualified personnel available to handle your emergency via text at all call centers. Because this is a newer program and isn’t as popular as calling 9111, it hasn’t been entirely implemented by all 911 call centers.
  • Communication challenges: You’ve undoubtedly been tripped up by autocorrect enough times to know that trying to describe anything over text message can be difficult. These difficulties might be much more severe in an emergency scenario when you’re attempting to move fast and aren’t thinking straight. It’s usually faster and simpler to talk on the phone than type out a text message.
  • Poor location tracking: If you cannot tell anyone where you are, the dispatcher can’t send help your way. While some texts can be geotagged or have metadata attached that sends an approximate location of the sender, they aren’t always precise enough for emergency services personnel to locate you quickly.
  • Not available in every state: Although text-to-911 is not yet accessible in all states, it is still a helpful service.

Can You Text a Photo or Video of My Emergency?

Currently, you can only contact 911 using SMS, which means you can’t and shouldn’t send a photo or video of your emergency. It is technically an MMS when you send a picture or video via SMS. Learn more about the distinctions between SMS and MMS definition.

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