Text-to-911 Expanding to California


For the past few years, the national emergency system has been testing a new feature that would allow citizens to text 911 in an emergency situation. It has slowly been rolling out to different regions of the country, and certain areas of California are the most recent recipients.

Being able to text 911 in an emergency has many different benefits. Of course, if someone is in your home or for some other reason you can’t make any noise, a silent text is optimal. But it also frees up the phone lines. Sending a text uses minimal resources in the response center, and if the message doesn’t go through the first time, it will automatically be resent until it does go through. In addition, if the dispatcher receives multiple text messages regarding the same incident, they can ignore the repeats and not waste time responding to repetitive calls. Here is everything you need to know about text-to-911 in California:

When to Text 911

While sending a text to 911 seems like the more convenient option, it should actually be the last resort. If you are in a car accident or in some other emergency, a voice call is almost always the preferable option. You can more easily exchange information with the dispatcher, letting them know where you are and what exactly is going on. That way, they know what kind of assistance to send to your location.

shutterstock_13317010Your location is perhaps the most important factor in an emergency. That’s why it’s always recommended you lead with that information when you call 911. Many who text in an emergency situation believe their phone automatically transmits their location. However, in some instances, your phone simply can’t locate you, at least in a timely manner. For these reasons, texting 911 is simply an inefficient way to get in contact with a dispatcher. Use it only if you have no other options.

What to Do If You Text 911

If you are in a situation in which you cannot talk, or if you have difficulty hearing, being able to send a text message to 911 is a boon. You should treat it the exact same way you would calling the police. Never, ever text or call 911 unless you are actually in an emergency situation. It may be tempting to send a text to see if your local dispatch center offers this service. Don’t do it. Rather, consult the FCC for a full list of areas in which text-to-911 is available.

The very first thing to include in your text message is your name and location. Then, explain your emergency in detail. You will likely receive a message back that lets you know help is on the way, and what additional information is needed. If the text is unable to go through for whatever reason, or if the service is unavailable, your wireless service is required to send an automatic bounce back message to you, instructing you to contact 911 some other way.

If you have been in a car accident or are dealing with some other kind of emergency, your first action should be contacting 911. Call if you can, and if not, send them a text. 

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