The ability to text an emergency to 911 has long been in the works, and will finally be realized this month. Starting May 15, all four major US carriers will be able to handle your 911 texts. While the program is not designed to take the place of calls to 911, it does provide a necessary option for those in dangerous circumstances.
The program is aimed at helping those in need who can’t place a phone call to work with 911 in getting help. Text-to-911 will accept text messages, but will not be accepting pics or video just yet. Though all four major carriers will have it available, it may not be available where you live.
The FCC has allowed the program, and carriers will implement it, but emergency call centers do not fall under the FCC’s jurisdiction. Those call centers are under the wing of the local state or county office, and unless they specifically request the Text-to-911 program, and train staff on how to use it, it won’t be readily available in your area. The FCC has a PDF available to let you know which counties and jurisdictions are currently signed up for the program. If you text 911 and your local call center doesn’t accept texts, you’ll get a bounce-back message so you know it failed.
The FCC is stressing that the program is not meant to alleviate the need to call if possible. Calls are still the preferred method for seeking help from emergency services, but in those instances that’s not possible, Text to 911 is here for some of us — and hopefully all of us very soon.