Text to 9-1-1

While it’s always better to call 9-1-1 in an emergency, sometimes that’s just not possible. While it is a great tool for the speech and hearing impaired community, it’s available to anyone with a cell phone. For example:

  • You’re in a limited coverage area and can’t get a phone call out, or
  • You’re in a dangerous situation and need to keep quiet for your own safety (examples include home invasions or abusive situations). REMEMBER TO SILENCE YOUR PHONE!

So how does it work? I’ve got six simple steps for you.

  1. Open your phone’s text messaging program.
  2. Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” field.
  3. Type a message with the exact location of the emergency (including city) and the type of emergency help needed (police, fire, or medical).
  4. Push the “Send” button.
  5. Stay with your phone, be prepared to answer text questions and follow instructions from the 911 Dispatcher
  6. Be aware of auto correct, especially when providing a location.

Like with any call, location is priority. If we don’t know where you are, we can’t send you help. Our system can help locate you, but technology can only be trusted so far. We say it a lot, but we’re only as good as the information that we receive. Help us help you.


Text to 9-1-1 is great, but there are limitations to it, including:

  • You have to have an active cell phone plan
  • It’s slower than calling. Everyone can talk faster than they can type.
  • Limited coverage area. Text to 9-1-1 will work anywhere in Washington and Yuma counties, but it hasn’t been rolled out everywhere yet.
  • There is no translation service built in. As of this writing, we can only text you in English.

Furthermore, there are some simple things that you may do in your normal texting routine that won’t work with 9-1-1.

  • Adding 9-1-1 to a group text will cause it to fail, and it won’t reach us.
  • The system only supports regular characters. No emojis, I’m afraid.
  • Avoid abbreviations, acronyms, and other slang. This will just waste time by forcing the dispatcher to ask for clarification.
  • We can only receive SMS messages. That’s just plain text. No pictures, videos, or other attachments will reach us.

Even with these shortcomings, it’s a great tool. We hope you never have to use it but, as they say; better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

If you have any questions, sound off in the comments! Odds are good that you’re not the only one with questions, and we can update this page with the answer.

Stay safe out there!

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