Understanding Text to 911

Understanding Text to 911

Text to 911

Did you know you don’t have to call 911 in an emergency but can text them instead? The text-to-911 capability is not available in all areas, so the FCC still recommends you make a call to 911 if you are able to. However, if texting is your only option then text-to-911 could be a lifesaver. Literally.

How does text-to-landline work?

You might think it’s weird to be able to text a landline, but it’s actually a very common way many people reach out to businesses and government services. In fact, if you own a business and don’t have text-to-landline enabled you could be missing out on valuable customers who are texting you and getting no response. When you enable any number, even 911, with text-to-landline, you can set it up to allow for mass text messaging or two-way messaging from that number. This can be enabled for new numbers and toll free lines or existing numbers.

How to contact 911 using text

It is simple to use the text-to-911 service. By simply entering 911 in the number field of the messages section of your phone and the nature of the emergency being experienced inside of the body of the message and hitting send, you can get the word out that you need help, but only at centers equipped for such a feature.

Remember, you can only use text-to-911 on a texting platform that supports SMS messaging to and from U.S. numbers. If you’re using an app that allows for messaging between users of the same app, but not to external users, then text-to-911 will not work within this app.

The FCC recommends using text-to-911 as a last resort. They suggest these alternatives options before using text-to-911

  • Call 911
  • If you’re deaf or hard of hearing, use a TTY if possible when text-to-911 is not available

One of the problems with facilitating text-to-911 is that there may not be the right human resources in place at all the call centers to handle your emergency through text. It can also be challenging to try to describe the problem you’re having over text message and could be faster to hop on a call with 911 so you can directly state your emergency.

Is there text-to-911 in your area?

The FCC states that all wireless carriers must deliver text-to-911 messages to emergency call centers that request them. Each call center has their own discretion when it comes to implementing a plan to accept text-to-911 messages. To find out if call centers in your area accept text-to-911 messages you can download the FCC registry, which is updated monthly. If your area does not support text-to-9-1-1, a message is immediate sent to you informing you that the message sending has failed. While there are many cities and states that do support the service, there are still many that do not support the feature.

Even if your area does support text-to-911, calling 911 is still the most reliable way to get through.

What’s the best way to contact 911?

The FCC emphasizes that even though text-to-landline does work to contact 911 call centers, it’s much more effective to dial 911 and speak to an operator directly.

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