The Salina Police Department’s Emergency Communications Center’s 911 equipment was recently upgraded and is now able to receive 911 texts from a cell phone. This provides an alternative means for citizens to text the 911 call center when it is not feasible to call in an emergency.
Sending a text to 911 instead of calling could be a lifesaving option for people in situations where they can’t speak safely, such as being in close proximity of a perpetrator. It could also benefit people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have difficulty speaking.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules require all wireless carriers to deliver text messages to 911 dispatchers. Still, texting to 911 has limitations; it will not allow a person to send photos, video, emoticons or to multiple recipients. If 911 texting is not available, callers will receive a bounce-back text message telling them to make a voice call to 911.
Voice calls are still the best way to contact 911, but having the ability to text 911 could be the difference that saves a life. Voice calls allow dispatchers to gather more information. Unlike phone calls, text messages do not transmit the sender’s location.
The Do’s and Don’ts for Texting 911:
- Enter the phone number 911, with no dashes, in the recipient field.
- Provide your address or location and describe the help you need – police, fire or ambulance.
- Be brief, but don’t use abbreviations or slang. Texts to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.
- Watch for a reply text from the 911 call center, and answer questions or follow instructions from the dispatcher.
- Use the English language, if possible; translation services are not yet available for text messages to 911.