People throughout Washington can now report an emergency to 911 by texting.
The service can be helpful to people who have a strong-enough signal to text but not make a call, or to people in a domestic-violence or home-invasion emergency who could be at greater risk if overheard making a phone call. It’s also helpful to people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities.
Even with the new service, emergency officials say, “Call if you can; text if you can’t.” A voice call to 911 will get help moving faster than a text message, but people should use the method that keeps them, as the caller, safest, according to the State 911 Coordinator.
When texting an emergency, enter 911 in the “to” field. Type a message with the exact location of the emergency (including city) and the type of help needed (police, fire or medical). Push “send.”
When you text, you will be sent a message asking if you can call back. If you can’t, text back and say that. If you can talk, a dispatcher will want to talk to you to get more information. The dispatcher will not automatically know where you are.
The service cannot accept photos, videos or emojis, so send only basic text. A group text won’t go through.
If you are using Text-to-911 because you’re trying to not be heard, don’t forget to silence your phone.
The 911 system is funded by a fee that is already included in phone-service fees.