The FCC recently announced that individuals can now text 911 for emergency assistance in some selected American cities and counties. Areas that currently support text-to-911 include Dallas, TX, Durham, NC, and the whole state of Maine, as well as certain counties in Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The FCC provides a full list of counties in which text-to-911 is available at the website transition.fcc.gov/cgb/text-to-911-deployments. According to the FCC, text-to-911 will eventually be available across the country.
Texting 911 is particularly useful for those who have difficulty hearing or speaking, as well as for people in situations in which it would be dangerous to speak aloud, such as hostage situations or when someone is hiding, trying not to be detected by a potential attacker.
The FCC says that calling is still the best way to reach 911 operators whenever possible. When you speak to a 911 operator over the phone, he or she can infer more information from your tone of voice and potentially hear things in the background. In addition, when a phone call comes through 911, the operator automatically receives information about your location. This doesn’t happen in most cases when you text, so be sure to provide your address if you text 911.
Pranksters beware. Just as it is illegal to make a false 911 call, it is against the law to send a prank 911 text.