Text to 911

Call 9-1-1 if you can. Text 9-1-1 if you can't.

What is Text to 9-1-1?

Text to 9-1-1 allows mobile users to send a text message to a 9-1-1 Dispatcher in situations where people cannot voice a call to 9-1-1.

When should you use Text to 9-1-1?

San Francisco’s Text to 9-1-1 service is intended primarily for use in three emergency scenarios: 

  • When someone is in a situation where it is not safe to place a voice call to 9-1-1;
  • When an individual is deaf, hard-of-hearing, or has a speech disability; and
  • When a medical emergency arises that renders the person incapable of speaking.

In general, people should call 9-1-1 if you can and text 9-1-1 if you can't.

How does Text to 9-1-1 Work?

San Francisco public safety dispatchers are trained to receive emergency calls and text messages from their workstations. Follow these steps to safely and effeciently Text to 9-1-1:

  • Keep the intial text short. Include the location of the emergency and let the dispatcher know if you need police, fire or medical assistance.
  • Answer the dispatcher's questions and follow their instructions. Keep you responses short and simple.

Can anyone Text to 9-1-1?

Any text enabled device with a Wireless Service Provider (WSP) and SMS texting plan is compatible. This includes iPhones, iPads, Apple Watch, Android Phone, tablets and some Windows phones and tablets that meet this criteria.  

Uninitialized cell phones (phones without a service plan) and software texting applications (ie. WhatsApp, iMessage, Skype, Google Voice, Xfinity Home Phone/Television Texting) are not compatible. 

Can I Text to 9-1-1 in any langauge?

Currently, Text to 911 service only accepts English alphabet characters & symbols and has a 160-character limit. It does not provide foreign language translation capabilities. 

What are the limitations of Text to 9-1-1?

  • Text to 9-1-1 sessions, over all, take longer than a voice call to complete
  • Location accuracy varies by carrier. As with voice calls to 911, callers using Text to 9-1-1 should be prepared to give the location of the emergency. When available, San Francisco 9-1-1 Dispatchers uses RapidSOS (third party platform) for location information when caller is not able to provide location.
  • Photos, emoticons, videos, and multiple recipients are not supported. 
  • People should not use “texting” lingo, shortcuts or acronyms to help eliminate any confusion on both the caller and the 911 dispatcher.

For more information, visit https://www.911.gov/issue_textto911.html