What Text-to-911 service means to you

What’s the status of Text-to-911 service across Washington State?

As of now, 36 of the state's 39 counties have Text-to-911 service or are testing it.

Counties with live service include Adams, Asotin, Benton, Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Okanogan, Pacific, Pend Oreille, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Spokane, Stevens, Thurston, Wahkiakum, Walla Walla, Whatcom, Whitman and Yakima counties. Island, Chela and Douglas counties are testing the service.

All 911 centers in Washington are currently working to upgrade their systems in order to accept Text-to-911. The State E911 Coordinator’s Office (SECO) is working with all counties to eventually provide the service statewide. Please don’t try the service because this creates additional unnecessary work at the call centers. With our Next Generation 911 network, more and more of our counties our now capable of processing Text-to-911. Details on that network here.

"The standard for Text-to-911 in Washington and nationally is: 'Call if you can, Text if you can’t," said Jonathan Brock, Deputy State 911 Coordinator. "A voice call to 9-1-1 will get help moving faster than a text message, but use the method that keeps you, as the caller, safest."

We will update this page as conditions change.

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What happens if someone texts a 911 call center that does not accept texts?

If Text-to-911 is not available in your area, you should receive an alert message. This message will warn that text is not available at this time, and they should make a voice call to 911.

If my county offers this service, should I call or should I text?

You should always call 9-1-1 if you can. A conversation can relay the needed information to get you the help or services you need much more quickly than a text conversation. Call if you can; text if you can’t. A dispatcher will likely ask you if you are available to talk.

Is it text only? What about sending photos and video at a scene?

Photos, videos or even an emoji can’t be sent to 911 at this time. Please just send basic text.

How do I text 9-1-1?

Open your phone’s text messaging program. Enter the numbers “9-1-1” in the “To” field (no dashes). Type a message with the exact location of the emergency (including city) and the type of emergency help needed (police, fire, or medical). Push the “Send” button. Stay with your phone, be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 call taker. Be aware of auto correct especially when providing a location. Do not send the same text message to multiple people at the same time. A “group text” will cause your message to 9-1-1 not to go through. Do not send your emergency text to anyone other than 9-1-1. Do not use emoticons or other symbols and do not use abbreviations or acronyms (text speak).

Will the dispatcher know where I am when I text?

Not necessarily. Always know your location. You will need to text 911 where the emergency is located.

Could there be technical issues?

As with all text messages, messages to or from 911 may have a delay, may get out of order or may not be received at all. If you are roaming, Text-to-911 is not available. Text in English only - interpreters are not available for text at this time. Keep text messages brief and concise using full words. You must have text messages included in your cell phone plan with a participating carrier to place a text to 9-1-1. When some phones can’t get a voice signal, the data plan may still work, which may allow you to text out to 911 when you otherwise couldn’t talk to 911.

Why is texting important?

Text-to-911 is intended to benefit people that may not be able to speak due to an emergency situation, such as a home invasion or abusive partner, as well as individuals that are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities. If you are using Text-to-911 because you are trying to not be heard, don’t forget to silence your cell phone.

How are the upgrades being paid for?

The 911 system is funded by an existing fee that is already included in phone service fees.

Who governs Text-to-911?

The FCC required the wireless carriers to offer Text-to-911 service; however, it is up to each 911 center to decide when to accept text. At this time, the FCC has only placed a regulation on the wireless carriers to make text available. Currently, 911 centers are not required to accept text messages.