Text to 911

Text to 9-1-1 is a new capability and is now available in Buffalo County.  It’s important to remember that voice calls remain the best way to contact 911, as a phone conversation allows an emergency dispatcher to quickly gather important facts about your location and situation, talk you through any necessary steps, and offer a reassuring voice.

Text-to-911 is the ability to send a text message to reach 911 emergency call takers from your mobile phone or device. However, because text-to-911 is currently only available in certain locations, you should always make a voice call to contact 911 during an emergency whenever possible.

Important items to remember when using text-to-911

  • Texting is not always instantaneous and may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services; text must be typed, transmitted and then read by the dispatcher and then texted back.
  • If a text is sent to a dispatch center that is not equipped for text-to-911, an automatic message is sent back to call the 911 center.
  • Text-to-911 requires the use of text messaging service.   Other messaging apps may not support text-to-911.
  • The character limit for all text messages is 160.
  • Do not use slang or abbreviations. Be as clear and concise as possible.
  • Always provide your location, as only an approximate location can be tracked through a text.
  • Include the nature of your emergency in your message.
  • You need to be in range of cell towers.
  • Text-to-911 is for emergency use only and should not append pictures, video, other attachments or other recipients to the message.

How to Contact 911

If you use a wireless phone or other type of mobile device, make sure to do the following in an emergency:

  • Always contact 911 by making a voice call, if you can.
  • If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech disabled, and text-to-911 is not available, use a TTY or a telecommunications relay service, if possible.
  • Remember that in most cases you cannot reach 911 by sending a text message.

Bounce-back Messages

If you attempt to send a text to 911 where the service is not yet available, FCC rules require all wireless carriers and other text messaging providers to send an automatic "bounce-back" message that will advise you to contact emergency services by another means, such as making a voice call or using telecommunications relay service (for persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability). Bounce-back messages are intended to minimize your risk of mistakenly believing that a text to 911 has been transmitted to an emergency call center.