Public Safety

New ‘Text 911’ Capability Provides Additional Resource

Hand holding phone
Calling 9-1-1 in an emergency is the best option, but texting is now an option when a phonecall is not possible.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department officially announced the launch of “Text to 911” technology Jan. 5, a service that includes the Sheriff’s Department as well as all county fire and emergency medical services (EMS) agencies and will help to make the county safer.

“Text to 911” technology is designed to help make emergency services available to some of the county’s most vulnerable residents who are unable to dial 911 during an emergency.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, dialing 911 is still the fastest way to reach help in an emergency, but there are certain situations when texting may be a better option.

These situations may include being deaf, hard of hearing, non-verbal, or have difficulty speaking over the telephone.

The Sheriff’s Department also said the “Text to 911” service may be beneficial in a situation where it is not safe to call 911 for help, or if someone is having a medical emergency and is unable to speak.

To use the “Text to 911” service, individuals needing emergency assistance should enter the numbers 911 in the “To” field of the text message, provide the location and nature of the emergency in the body of the message, and then send the message.  The user should then respond via text to any questions the dispatcher may have, and follow any direction given in text format.

It is important for “Text to 911” users to remember that messages cannot include other people in the “To” field, cannot contain photos or videos, and should not contain emojis, abbreviations or acronyms.

The Sheriff’s Department said it is also important for users to remember that “Text to 911” is for emergencies only, and intentional misuse of the system is a crime and a punishable offense. Anyone who accidentally sends a “Text to 911” message should immediately reply clarifying there is no emergency.

Currently, the service is only available in English.  Data and message rates may apply. Since cellular services varies by location, if “Text to 911” is not available the user will receive a bounce back message asking them to call 911.

See how the new “Text to 911” technology works in a Sheriff’s Department video.

The implementation of the “Text to 911” technology will help improve the quality of life of all citizens and supports the mission and vision of the San Diego County government to efficiently provide public services that build strong and sustainable communities as part of a region that is building better health, living safely, and thriving.