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6800 Burleson Road
Building 310, Suite 165
Austin, TX 78744

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Text to 911 FAQ

Got questions about Text to 9-1-1? Get answers

A photos show how to text to 911.

Source: Answers are compiled from the FCC and CAPCOG’s Emergency Communications Director, Gregg Obuch.

If cellphone users in the Capital Area text their emergency to 9-1-1 today, they would receive a message telling them to call. But soon those messages will be answered by a live operator who can dispatch the proper emergency responders.

While a few areas in the United States already rolled out a Text to 9-1-1 service, the Capital Area Council of Governments and the Capital Area Emergency Communications District anticipate responding to Text to 9-1-1 reported emergencies by September 2017.

Below is an overview FAQ about the Text to 9-1-1 services. To familiarize yourself with using Text to 9-1-1 once it becomes available, read the separate FAQ users guide for texting 9-1-1.

But what is Text to 9-1-1, and why would someone want to use it?
Do area phone companies support Text to 9-1-1, and do regional Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) have the equipment and training to use it?
Why is it important to plan the implementation of Text to 9-1-1?
What are issues CAPCOG and the emergency communications district want to avoid when implementing Text to 9-1-1?
If I am able to Text to 9-1-1, will the 9-1-1 center automatically know my location?
If Text to 9-1-1 is available to me, why should people use it only when calling 9-1-1 is not an option?
What should residents always remember before texting 9-1-1?

But what is Text to 9-1-1, and why would someone want to use it?
Text to 9-1-1 is the ability to send a "short message" (SMS) also known as a text message to 9-1-1. Texting during an emergency could be helpful if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, or if a voice call might otherwise be dangerous or impossible. However, those who are able should always call 9-1-1.

Do area phone companies support Text to 9-1-1, and do regional Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) have the equipment and training to use it?
The "Big Four” wireless carriers – Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, Sprint, and T-Mobile – began providing Text to 9-1-1 capabilities in mid-May 2014. Under current FCC requirements, other service providers had until Dec. 31, 2014 to provide the service. The PSAPs in the CAPCOG region have the necessary equipment in place. Training for call takers will be provided before Text to 9-1-1 is activated in the region. Planning for the deployment of Text to 9-1-1 currently is underway.

Why is it important to plan the implementation of Text to 9-1-1?
Text messaging is one of the primary ways people communicate today, especially younger people and people with hearing and speech disabilities. Several studies estimate more than 6 billion SMS text messages are sent daily in the United States. To ensure emergency texts are routed to the proper 9-1-1 center; it requires proper coordination with each service provider.

What are issues CAPCOG and the emergency communications district want to avoid when implementing Text to 9-1-1?
A key challenge in activating Text to 9-1-1 in our regional call centers is selecting the Text to 9-1-1 platform that works best in the emergency call centers. CAPCOG conducted extensive research and reviewed methods used by other 9-1-1 areas that participated in the early deployment and were the first to activate Text to 9-1-1 in their areas. This enabled CAPCOG and regional call centers to select the best solution for the region.

If I am able to Text to 9-1-1, will the 9-1-1 center automatically know my location?
Texting 9-1-1 is different from making a voice call. During a voice call to 9-1-1, the call taker will typically receive a phone number and the phone’s approximate location automatically. This is called "Enhanced 911" or "E911." However, in most cases when texting 9-1-1 from a wireless phone, the call taker will not receive this automated information. For this reason, it is important to give the 9-1-1 call taker an accurate address or location as quickly as possible when using Text to 9-1-1.

If Text to 9-1-1 is available to me, why should people use it only when calling 9-1-1 is not an option?
Voice calls to 9-1-1 are the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Voice calls allow the 9-1-1 operator to more quickly ask questions and obtain information from the caller, while two-way communication by text:

  • takes more time
  • limited on the length of text message
  • provided by the carriers as a “best efforts” service
  • no guarantee the text message will be sent, delivered or received in a timely manner, if at all.

What should residents always remember before texting 9-1-1?

CALL IF YOU CAN — TEXT IF YOU CAN'T.

> Read more about CAPCOG's Emergency Communications Division.