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911 via Text Message

Updated: Sep 26, 2019

Calling 911 is the best way to reach out for help in an emergency situation, but if you can't call or talk, you might be able to text. In 2014, police stations across America began rolling out Text-to-911, a program that lets people in trouble send a message in place of a call.  In Santa Clara County, the text-to-911 was officially rolled out today.

Whether you can't make any noise because you don't want to be discovered by an intruder, have a disability that prevents communicating with the operator or have poor cell reception and can't get a voice call out, Text-to-911 is an important tool to keep in mind. 

Here's what you need to know if you ever have to text 911 for help. It's one of many ways your phone can literally save your life

What is “Text to 9-1-1” technology?

Text to 9-1-1 is the ability to send a text message to 9-1-1 from your mobile phone or handheld device.

Can I Text to 9-1-1 in Santa Clara County?

Text to 9-1-1 is not available everywhere and is not always available when roaming.

Text to 9-1-1 is currently available in the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County, and the cities of:

  • Cupertino

  • Gilroy

  • Los Altos

  • Los Altos Hills

  • Milpitas

  • Monte Sereno

  • Mountain View

  • Palo Alto

  • San Jose

  • Santa Clara

  • Saratoga

  • Sunnyvale

The cities of Campbell and Los Gatos are expected to offer theservice by the end of 2019.

You must subscribe to your wireless carrier’s text or data plan in order to send or receive text messages.

If Text to 9-1-1 is not available in your area, or is temporarily unavailable, you should receive a messageindicating that Text to 9-1-1 is not available and to contact 9-1-1 by other means.

When should I text 9-1-1?

Dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency is still the preferred way to request help,and the public is reminded to “Call if you can. Text if you can’t.”

Text to 9-1-1 is intended primarily for use in three emergency scenarios:

  1. For an individual who is deaf, hard-of-hearing or has a speech disability.

  2. For someone who is in a situation where it is not safe to place a voice call to 9-1-1.

  3. A medical emergency that renders the person incapable of speech.

ONLY text 9-1-1 in an emergency. Prank-texters can be identified and possibly prosecuted according to local laws/regulations.

What are the challenges with text-to-9-1-1 service?

  • As with all text messages, Text to 9-1-1 may take longer to receive and respond to than avoice call, does not provide the location of the texter and could be received out of order,or may not be received at all.

  • Text GPS location information is not equal to current wireless location technology.

  • Voice calls are real-time communication and Text to 9-1-1 is not.

  • Pictures or videos cannot be received by 9-1-1 at this time. The messaging systems that operators use aren't like our phones, and can't receive group messages, photos, or videos. To make sure the operator will understand your message, don't use emoji or any shorthand abbreviations. Spell everything out. 

  • If you include anyone else on your Text to 9-1-1, it may not be received by 9-1-1.

  • At this time translation services for Text to 9-1-1 are not available; please text in English only.

Text-to-9-1-1 TipsHow do I text to 9-1-1?

  1. Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” or “Recipient” field.

  2. The first text to 9-1-1 should be short, include the location of the emergency, and ask for police, fire, or ambulance.

  3. Push the “Send” button

  4. Answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.

  5. Text in simple words –no abbreviations or slang.

  6. Keep text messages short.

How will I know if 9-1-1 received my text?

  • A 9-1-1 call center should respond to the text

  • If Text to 9-1-1 is not available, you should receive a message from the wireless carrier stating that Text to 9-1-1 is not available and that you must place a voice or relay call to 9-1-1.

Is there a charge to text-to-9-1-1?

Standard text messaging rates apply.

Can I text to 9-1-1 in languages other than English?

Text to 9-1-1 is currently available in English.​

For more information on text-to-911 visit:


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