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Guide

What You Need to Know About Text-to-911

Text-to-911 is the ability to send a text message to reach 911 emergency call takers from your mobile phone or device.

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.

On January 30, 2014, the Commission adopted a Policy Statement and 2nd FNPRM stating the goal that all wireless telephone companies and providers of interconnected text messaging services should enable consumers to send text messages to 911. The Commission encouraged industry-developed solutions to achieve this goal, and proposed rules that would require all covered text providers to support text-to-911 by December 31, 2014. (See also: Best Practices for Implementing Text-to-911: www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/best-practices-implementing-text-911.)

How to Contact 911

IMPORTANT! 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 have a speech disability, use a TTY or a telecommunications relay service, if possible.
  • Remember - in most cases now, you cannot reach 911 by sending a text message.

Bounce-Back Messages

The FCC has rules to help keep consumers safe during the transition to text-to-911. These rules are intended to minimize the risk if consumers attempt to send text messages to 911 where the service is not available. Specifically, beginning September 30, 2013, all wireless telephone companies and certain other text messaging providers are required by the FCC to send an automatic "bounce-back" message to any consumer who tries to send a text message to 911 where this service is not yet available.

  • Consumers who receive this "bounce-back" message will be advised to contact emergency services by another means, such as by making a voice call or using a telecommunications relay service (the latter for consumers who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability).
  • The nation's four largest wireless telephone companies – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon – have agreed to voluntarily begin sending these "bounce back" text messages across their networks as of June 30, 2013, a few months earlier than the September 2013 deadline established by the FCC's rules.

When Will Text-to-911 Become Widely Available?

  • In a Policy Statement adopted January 30, 2014, the Commission expressed its belief that every wireless carrier and every provider that enables a consumer to send text messages to telephone numbers should support text-to-911 capabilities.
  • In an agreement with NENA and APCO, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon have voluntarily committed to provide text-to-911 service by May 15, 2014 in all areas served by their networks where a 911 call center is prepared to receive texts.
  • The Commission encourages wireless providers and interconnected text providers that are not parties to the Carrier-NENA-APCO Agreement to work with the public safety community to develop similar commitments to support text-to-911 in a timely manner, so that all consumers will be assured access to text-to-911 regardless of what text provider they choose. The Commission has also proposed rules that would require all covered text providers to support text-to-911 by December 31, 2014.
  • The Commission has encouraged 911 call centers to begin accepting texts as text providers develop text-to-911 capability. It is up to each 911 call center to decide whether and when to begin accepting texts. Some call centers have started to accept text messages already. We expect that others will do so and that text-to-911 will become available in more areas over time.
  • Nevertheless, even where text-to-911 is available, consumers should continue to contact 911 by making a voice call if they can, and use text only if voice is not a feasible or safe option.

Status of Text-to-911 Deployments

Wireless Carrriers' Voluntary Commitment to Accelerate Text-to-911 Services

Commission Text-to-911 Documents

For More Information

To learn more about FCC programs to promote access to telecommunications services for people with disabilities, visit the FCC’s Disability Rights Office website.

For information about other communications issues, visit the FCC’s Consumer website, or contact the FCC’s Consumer Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to:

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

Print Out

Text-to-911 Guide (pdf)

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Updated: February 10, 2014
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