Starting today, April 2, 2018, if you are not near a landline, you can text your emergency to 911. This new feature will allow better access to 911 for those in danger, including the hearing impaired. It will also be beneficial for people who are not able to speak to 911 operators because of any physical impairment or if speaking would put themselves in danger by talking on the phone. However, according the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) even where text-to-911 is available, if you are able to make a voice call to 911, and if it is safe to do so, you should always make a voice call to 911 instead. Officials with the City of Glendale said in a release that the feature doesn’t currently have any location services available with texting. So if you do text 911, you need to include your location in the text message. And with no interpretations available, the text must be in English. The system is also not able to receive group messages and cannot receive photos. Also, note that if you attempt to send a text to 911 where text-to-911 service is unavailable, you should receive an immediate “bounce-back” message that text-to-911 is not available and that you should contact emergency services by another means, such as by making a voice call or using telecommunications relay services (the latter for consumers who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability).
For more information and/or updates regarding text-to-911, please visit https://www.fcc.gov/text-to-911. For links to FCC proceedings about text-to-911, please visit: https://www.fcc.gov/document/text-911-bounce-back-message-order, and https://www.fcc.gov/document/text-911-further-notice-proposed-rulemaking.
Adena Astrowsky is a prosecutor and author of Mother of Souls, The Story of a Holocaust Survivor. She recently received an Amazing Women award from the Phoenix Suns and National Bank of Arizona for her professional and philanthropic work. She lives in Scottsdale with her husband and three children.