Call 911 If You Can, Text If You Can't

Wireless customers across all of Southwestern PA can send a short message service (SMS) text message to a 9-1-1 operator from a mobile phone or device if there is a situation that does not allow them to call.

This allows 9-1-1 access to people with hearing/speech impairments, as well as those in situations where it is unsafe to speak on the phone.

When using this option be sure not to send audio recordings, videos, or pictures, as these multimedia files cannot be received by 9-1-1 operators at this time.

Non-emergency calls still should be communicated to emergency services through non-emergency phone lines.

Text 9-1-1

How to Text 9-1-1 in an Emergency

TEXT to 9-1-1 is easy! Simply send a short, but detailed, text message of the location of your emergency, your municipality, and the reason for the emergency message to 9-1-1 using this step-by-step guide:

In the “To” field enter the numbers 911

  • The first text message should contain:
    • The address/location of the emergency, including municipality (if known). The information from your cell phone is not enough for operators to find you.
    • The type of help needed (fire, ambulance, police, etc.)
    • Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 operator (You may want to place your phone on silent so not to alert intruders.)
  • Once you have typed a short but detailed text message with the information listed above, click send.
    • Use simple words and do not use abbreviations or slang
    • Do not send photos or videos
    • Do not send your emergency text to anyone other than 9-1-1 (for example, no group texts)

As with all text messages, 9-1-1 texts may take longer to be received, may be received out of order, or may not be received at all. Therefore, it may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services originating from a text. Call if You Can, Text if You Can’t!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will a deactivated phone be able to text to 9-1-1? No, a text or data plan is required to place a text to 9-1-1.
  • If my phone service indicates roaming, will Text to 9-1-1 be available? No, Text-to-9-1-1 is not available if you are roaming.
  • Are all cell phone carriers able to support Text to 9-1-1? While our region has the appropriate technology in place, not all carriers are ready to offer this capability.
  • What if Text to 9-1-1 is not available? You will receive a “bounce back” message telling you that this service is not available in your area and to contact 9-1-1 by other means.
  • REMEMBER: DO NOT TEXT and DRIVE!
Southwestern Pennsylvania Emergency Response Regional Task Force

Information provided is courtesy of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Emergency Response Regional Task Force. Follow us on Facebook at Southwestern PA Emergency Response Group @Region13swpa.