April is “National 911 Education Month,” so it’s a good time to say thanks to first responders – and their families – who are tirelessly and selflessly dedicating themselves to saving protecting people and saving lives. It’s also important that we understand how to use 911 in an emergency, especially as wireless embarks upon a new chapter in wireless 911 services with text-to-911, which is carriers’ ability to send texts to 911 in emergencies.
By May 15, 2014, AT&T, Sprint, T‑Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless voluntarily committed to support text‑to‑911 services in areas where public safety answering points (PSAPs), which are the 911 call centers, ask to be able to receive text‑to‑911 messages. You may soon be able to send SMS text messages to 911 if you are one of these wireless providers’ customers and you send a text message to 911 in an area where the PSAP can receive the text message.
Whether text-to-911 is available for you now or later, here are a few tips on text-to-911 service:
- Call if You Can, Text if You Can’t: Your local PSAP 911 operator may not be able to accept text messages. A voice, TTY or relay call continues to be the best way to reach 911. Voice calls to 911 provide the operator with the most information about the emergency situation.
- You May Get a “Bounce-Back” Message: If text-to-911 isn’t available in your area, you’ll receive a “bounce back” message that tells you to call 911 instead. All wireless providers will send the “bounce back” message, even if the carrier isn’t supporting text-to-911 services.
- Know Where You Are: 911 operators need to know where you are in order to send help. Text-to-911 services do not automatically provide your specific location to the 911 operators. So, make sure to include your location in the text message.
Even though there are a few areas that will soon have text-to-911 available, the ability to text and send photos and videos to 911 may increasingly be available throughout the United States as we move towards Next Generation 911. CTIA and its member companies have a strong record of enhancing public safety so that wireless consumers may reach 911 in their greatest time of need, and we will continue to do so.
If you want more information on text-to-911, please visit the FCC’s website.