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Text to 911 Service Goes Live in Some U.S. States

Last Thursday May 15th all four major US . carriers, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint have started offering text to 911 in some states.   Text to 911 is the ability of a mobile phone or device to reach emergency services by texting a message.   The main use cases are when a person can’t speak, hear, or need to call for help in a stealthy mode.  The main benefit for outdoor enthusiasts is to get through to 911 in areas of spotty cell coverage.   Texts messages require less bandwidth and have a higher chance of getting through where voice calls might not.

 

Here’s what you need to know:

 

In the future, text-to-911 will be widely available in the United States. However, for now, the ability to contact 911 using text is only available on a limited basis in a few markets. For this reason, you should not rely on text to reach 911.  The full rollout can take several years.

 

With text it’s still important to communicate the same details as a voice call, your location and type of emergency should be first. 

 

Texting to 911 is different from making a voice call to 911 in this respect. When you make a voice call to 911, the call taker will typically receive your phone number and your approximate location automatically. This is called "Enhanced 911" or "E911." However, in most cases when you text 911 from a wireless phone, the call taker will not receive this automated information. For this reason, if you send a text message to 911, it is important to give the 911 call taker a location or address as quickly as possible.

 

In the wilderness provide your detailed location information if you have a Lat/Long this is prefered, if you have an iPhone you can quickly view your Lat/Long from the standard compass app.

 

In an emergency voice calls should still be the default since 911 operators can ask for more and specific information and communicate faster.  

Here's some top tips for dialing 911 (especially with iPhone) in the wilderness.

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