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Can You Text 911 in your State? Here's What You Should Know

May 30, 2023

Have you ever wondered what you’d do in an emergency where speaking aloud with a 911 operator wasn’t a viable option? Text-to-911 is an emergency service that enables individuals to reach out for help via text message. It provides a lifeline for those who are deaf, hard of hearing or facing circumstances where speaking aloud is unsafe or impossible. 

Text-to-911 is currently only available in certain locations, although the Federal Communications Commission is encouraging emergency call centers to begin accepting texts. However, it is up to the discretion of individual call centers to decide whether to implement and deploy text-to-911 technology. 

Read on to see where text-to-911 is supported and learn how you can text 911 regarding emergency circumstances. 

Table of Contents

States That Currently Support Text-to-911

A handful of states have successfully implemented text-to-911 services statewide. Here are the states that currently support text-to-911 in every county:

  • Arizona
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire

States That Are in the Process of Implementing Text-to-911

Most states are in the process of implementing text-to-911, meaning it is available in some counties but not others. Here are the states that are currently in the process of implementing the service:




















West Virginia




South Carolina




New Jersey

South Dakota




New York 





North Carolina 





North Dakota



Areas that offer text-to-911 services are constantly changing. You can check if the county you live in supports text-to-911, by searching your address, city or county. 

States That Do Not Support Text-to-911

These two states currently do not support text-to-911 in any county:

  • New Mexico
  • Rhode Island

How to Use Text-to-911

Now that you know whether you can contact 911 via text in your area, here’s everything you need to know about text-to-911 guidelines, appropriate use cases and limitations:

Guidelines for Using Text-to-911

When using text-to-911, it is important to follow specific guidelines to ensure effective communication with emergency services. Here are some guidelines for using text-to-911:

  1. Verify availability. Confirm if text-to-911 is supported in your area. Remember that availability varies from county to county.
  2. Provide accurate location. Text messages do not automatically provide location information. Clearly state your exact location or address in the initial message to help emergency responders locate you promptly. 
  3. Use clear language. Be concise and use plain language in your text messages. Avoid abbreviations, emojis or slang.
  4. Include essential information. Clearly describe the nature of the emergency, the type of assistance required and any relevant details such as injuries, the number of people involved or hazards present.
  5. Be prepared for follow-up questions. Emergency operators may need additional information to assess the situation or provide appropriate instructions. Keep your phone close and be ready to answer any questions. 
  6. Stay calm and patient. Unlike voice calls, text-to-911 may not provide an immediate response. Remain calm and patient while waiting for a reply, as emergency operators may be handling multiple incidents at the same time. 
  7. Do not send non-emergency messages. Text-to-911 should only be used for true emergencies. Avoid sending non-emergency messages or testing the service.

When to Use Text-to-911

It is recommended to call 911 whenever possible, as it allows for an easier, quicker exchange of information between the caller and the operator. However, there are many circumstances where using text-to-911 is appropriate. Here are some examples:

  • Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals who are unable to make a voice call.
  • Speech-impaired individuals who are unable to communicate verbally.
  • When making a voice call could endanger your safety, such as during a home invasion or abduction. 
  • In situations with poor cell reception, making a voice call impossible.
  • Medical emergencies where the person cannot speak or hear due to the nature of their condition. 
  • Situations where an individual is hiding and cannot speak, such as during an active shooter incident. 
  • Domestic violence situations where speaking on the phone could escalate the situation.
  • Instances of child abuse where it is safer for the child to send a discreet text message. 
  • Kidnapping or human trafficking situations where a victim can secretly send a text for help.
  • When witnessing a crime or suspicious activity and making a voice call could draw unwanted attention.
  • Instances of severe social anxiety or other psychological conditions that make speaking on the phone difficult. 

Limitations of Text-to-911

While many circumstances may require using text-to-911, there are some limitations:

  1. Limited location accuracy. Unlike voice calls, text messages do not provide automatic location information. In emergencies, accurate location data is crucial for responders to provide timely assistance. Text-to-911 relies on the user to provide their location, which may not always be possible or accurate, especially in moments of distress or when the individual is in an unfamiliar area. 
  2. Delayed response times. Text messages may not receive an immediate response from emergency dispatch centers, as text-to-911 services are typically staffed by operators who prioritize voice calls. This can result in delayed response times for text messages.
  3. Limited communication capabilities. Text messages lack the real-time interaction and detailed information that can be conveyed through voice calls. Clarifying crucial details, assessing the severity of the situation or providing instructions may be challenging over text.
  4. Dependence on cellular network availability. Text-to-911 relies on the availability of a functioning cellular network, which may be unavailable in areas with poor signal coverage or during network outages. 
  5. Language barriers and communication difficulties. Text-to-911 may face challenges in handling different languages, dialects or abbreviations used in text messages. 
  6. Limited accessibility. While text-to-911 benefits individuals with hearing or speech impairments, it may not be accessible to those with visual impairments.

With these limitations in mind, it is important to remember that voice calls to 911 remain the most reliable and efficient method for accessing emergency services. Text-to-911 should be used as a secondary option when voice communication is not safe or possible. 

Final Thoughts 

Text-to-911 services offer an essential communication option for a variety of emergency circumstances. Because its availability varies by state and region, always verify whether it is supported in your area. 

Advancements in technology, like text-to-911, continue to shape and improve emergency response systems. Ensuring access to reliable communication options for all individuals is crucial in creating safer communities and providing timely assistance when it matters most. 

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