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The Federal Communications Commission launched the Text-to-911 program, allowing certain counties in 16 states to accept text messages as an alternative to placing a voice call when reporting an emergency.
Text-to-911 is now live on the four major wireless U.S. carriers: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.
According to the FCC’s website, if you are in an area where 911 dispatchers can take emergency calls, and you are covered by one of the four major carriers, then you should be able to text 911.
To use the service, include both the description and location of the situation in a text message with “911” in the recipient or phone number field. If you are in an area that is not up and running Text-to-911 yet, texts sent to 911 will get a bounce-back message reply explaining that it wasn’t received.
But since getting a bounce-back message rather than a real reply during an emergency could be a waste of time, officials still recommend that you place a 911 call if you are able.
“It’s always preferable to make a voice call to 911,” director of government affairs at the National Emergency Number Association Trey Forgety told ABC News. “Call if you can; text only if you can’t.”