Text to 911

Feb 16, 2016
| Posted in
Mobile phone dialing 911

All 43 public safety answering points (PSAPs), backup PSAPs and training centers in the 11 counties served by the Mid-America Regional Council can now accept texts. This includes Cass, Clay, Jackson, Platte and Ray counties in Missouri, and Atchison, Johnson, Leavenworth, Linn, Miami and Wyandotte counties in Kansas. All major cell phone companies, including AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, now offer this service to their wireless customers.

Texts sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.

When to use text to 911

  • Call if you can, text if you can’t! Calling 911 is still the best way to report an emergency. 
  • Calltakers can get vital information more quickly through a voice call. It can also take more time for calltakers to respond to a text.
  • Text to 911 is designed for situations where you cannot speak safely, such as a home invasion, active shooter or domestic violence incident.
  • It is also an ideal option for people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have difficulty speaking.
  • Just like 911 calls, texts to 911 should only be sent during actual emergencies.

Who can use text to 911

  • Four major phone carriers — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — offer text to 911 service to their wireless customers in the Kansas City metro. Depending on the technology and the device used, customers of other carriers may be able to send a text to 911.
  • A text or data plan with a participating carrier is necessary to text to 911. The type of cell phone you have may also impact your ability to text to 911.
  • Text to 911 is not available when roaming.
  • The service is not yet available in other parts of Kansas. In Missouri, the only other areas currently offering text to 911 service are Hannibal and Bolivar.

What to expect when you send a text to 911

  • A dispatcher will reply to you by text. Be sure to silence your ringtone if staying quiet is important to your safety.
  • If your text to 911 fails to go through, you will receive a bounce-back message saying the service is not available and instructing you to make a voice call to 911. 
  • 911 call centers cannot identify your exact location when you send a text to 911.
  • Carriers treat texts to 911 like any other text message. Until the Federal Communications Commission sets specific guidelines, texts to 911 will not receive priority on wireless networks. Emergency texts will also experience the same service speeds and delays as other text messages.

How to send texts to 911

  • Give an accurate address or location as quickly as possible.
  • Identify the type of help you need — police, fire or ambulance.
  • Be brief, but don’t use abbreviations or slang.
  • Text in English. Translation services are not yet available for texts to 911.
  • Do not copy other people on texts to 911. Group messages will not go through.
  • Do not use emoticons or attach photos or videos. Texts with any images or multimedia will not go through.

Call if you can.... text if you can't

Text to 911 should ONLY be used in an emergency and in circumstances when you cannot safely call 911.,