Emergency Services Launches Text-to-911 Messaging
By St. Mary's County Government
August 19, 2020

The St. Mary’s County Department of Emergency Services has launched the Text-to-911 emergency notification system. Available statewide, this service provides an additional way for residents to reach emergency services.

Text-to-911 messaging may be used by those who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or have a speech disability. Additionally, the service can be used by people who may be in situations where it is unsafe to place a voice call or are experiencing a medical emergency and are unable to speak.

To use the service, enter 911 in the “to” line of a text message, include a brief message describing your location, the emergency and type of service needed, and hit send. 911 dispatchers will respond and gather additional information as needed and dispatch appropriate emergency responders.

Emergency Services Director Stephen Walker said, “Text-to-911 is supported by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon and is another invaluable tool we can use to provide the safest, most efficient response to emergencies in St. Mary’s County.”

Q: What is text-to-911?
A: Text-to-911 is the ability to send a text message from your mobile phone to 911 in the event you are unable to place a phone call.
Q: Can I text 911?
A: Text-to-911 is not available everywhere and may not be available when roaming. In the state of Maryland, text-to-911 is available statewide with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. To text 911, you must be enrolled in your carrier’s text or data plan. If text-to-911 is not available in your area, or is temporarily unavailable, you should receive a message letting you know to contact 911 by other means.
Q: When should I text 911?
A: Text-to-911 is intended for use in three primary scenarios:
1. For individuals who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or have a speech disability
2. For someone who is in a situation where it is unsafe to place a voice call to 911
3. For an individual who is experiencing a medical emergency and may be unable to speak. You should only text 911 in an emergency. Prank-texters can be identified and prosecuted according to local laws and regulations.
Q: What are the challenges with text-to-911 service?
A: As with all text messages, texts to 911 may take longer to receive and respond than a voice call. Texts also do not provide the location of the texter, and could be received out of order or may not be received at all. Additional challenges include:
• Pictures and/or videos cannot be received by 911 via text
• If you include another contact on your text to 911 it may not be received by 911
• The preferred text language for texting 911 is English, however, some limited translation services may be available
Q: How do I text 911?
A: Follow these steps to text 911 in an emergency:
1. Enter 911 into the “To” field of a new message
2. Your first text should be short and include the location of the emergency and the type of service needed – police, fire, or ambulance
3. Press the send button
4. Answer questions from the 911 specialist and follow the instructions he or she provides
5. Text in simple words; do not use abbreviations or slang
6. Keep messages short
Q: How do I know that 911 has received my text?
A: If your text has been received, a 911 specialist should respond to your text. If text-to-911 is not available in your area, or is temporarily unavailable, you should receive a message from your wireless carrier letting you know that you must place a voice or relay call to 911.
Q: Is there a charge for using text-to-911 service?
A: Standard text messaging rates apply.

Attachment NEWS RELEASE-Text-to-911 Messaging.pdf  (132k)