Text to 911
On May 14, 2014, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and County Council Member, and Public Safety Committee Chairman, Jim Ellenbogen announced that Verizon wireless customers in Allegheny County had the ability to utilize Text to 9-1-1 for emergencies. The service allows access for the hearing and speech impaired, as well as a safe means of contact to 911 for those who are in a situation where it is unsafe to speak on the phone.
On June 23, 2014, T-Mobile became the second provider to begin offering Text to 9-1-1 services to its customers.
You can learn more about this service and what it means for Allegheny County residents by reading our Frequently Asked Questions below, or by contacting 9-1-1 Communications by phone (412/473-1000), e-mail, or by visiting the division online.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I send a text to 9-1-1?
to 9-1-1 is not available in many areas, but Allegheny County has been
proactive in ensuring that we have the appropriate technology available and
will continue to work with carriers to make this service available to its
customers. Currently, only Verizon
Wireless and T-Mobile customers can send a short message service (SMS) text
message for emergency help when unable to make a 9-1-1 call. It is expected that AT & T and Sprint
will be adding the service in the near future.
Where can I use Text to 9-1-1?
to 9-1-1 is available to any Verizon Wireless or T-Mobile customer within range
of an Allegheny County cell tower.
Why isn’t Text to 9-1-1 available
is a new technology that may require upgrades to some 9-1-1 centers and
coordination with wireless phone companies.
While Allegheny County has the appropriate technology in place, not all
carriers are ready to offer the capability.
Can I use Text to 9-1-1 outside of
counties within the state have begun to implement this option, but Allegheny
County is the only county in Western PA to offer this service currently. If you Text to 9-1-1 outside of the County,
you will receive a “bounce back” message telling you that the service is not
available in your area.
When will Text to 9-1-1 be available
for my carrier?
four national carriers voluntarily committed to provide Text to 9-1-1 service
by May 15, 2014 in all areas served by their networks where a 9-1-1 call center
is prepared to receive texts. As of now, only Verizon and T-Mobile have begun
offering this service. Other carriers have been encouraged to develop similar
commitments and the County will announce that service as it becomes available.
The FCC has proposed rules that would require all covered text providers to
support Text to 9-1-1 by December 31, 2014.
What will happen if I text 9-1-1 and
my carrier doesn’t provide that service?
FCC has required all wireless telephone companies to send an automatic message
to any consumer who tries to send a text message to 9-1-1 where the service is
not yet available. Consumers will be advised to contact emergency services by
Text to 9-1-1?
to 9-1-1 is the ability to send a short message/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 to 9-1-1 might otherwise be dangerous or impossible.
How do I text 9-1-1 in an emergency?
the numbers “911” in the “To” field. The
first text message should be brief and contain the location of the emergency,
including municipality, and the type of help needed. Push the “send” button. Be
prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.
Text in simple words. Do not use abbreviations. Keep text messages brief and
should I use text to 9-1-?
Customers should use the texting option only when calling 9-1-1 is
not an option. Using a phone to call 9-1-1 is still the most efficient way to
reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical
during a life-threatening emergency. It will probably take slightly longer to
dispatch emergency services in a text to 9-1-1 situation in Allegheny County
because of the time involved.
If I am
able to Text to 9-1-1, will the 9-1-1 Center automatically know my location?
Texting to 9-1-1 is different from making a voice call. If making a voice call, the Center will
receive your phone number and approximate location automatically. In cases
where you text 9-1-1, the Center will not receive this information.
should I include in my text?
Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the
first text message is imperative, since the Allegheny County Department of
Emergency Services Communications Center will receive only an approximate
location of the cell phone, and will not be able to speak with the person
sending the text. Text abbreviations or slang should never be used so that the
intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible.
information can I put in the text?
Texts sent to 9-1-1 have the same 160-character limit as other
text messages. SMS911 should only be used to communicate between emergency help
and the texter with no pictures, video, other attachments or other recipients
appended to the message.
What if I
have a non-emergency, can I use Text to 9-1-1?
The texting function should only be used for emergency situations
that require an immediate response from police, fire, or emergency medical
services. Non-emergency issues should still be communicated to the Allegheny
County Department of Emergency Services through its non-emergency line at
quick facts to know if you need to text 9-1-1:
- Text location information is not equal to
current location technology
- As will all text messages, 9-1-1 messages can
take longer to receive, can be received out of order, or may not be received at
- Text to 9-1-1 is not available if you are
- A text or data plan is required to place a
text to 9-1-1
- If texting to 9-1-1 is not available in your
area or is temporarily unavailable, you will receive a message indicating that
texting 9-1-1 is not available to contact 9-1-1 by other means
- Photos and videos cannot be sent to 9-1-1 at
- Text to 9-1-1 cannot include more than one
person – do not send your emergency text to anyone other than 9-1-1
- Do NOT text and drive!