Effective Thursday, August 20, 9-1-1 call centers across Maryland will begin accepting text messages via text-to-911 service.
Customers of the three major wireless carriers (AT&T, former Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon) who are enrolled in their carriers’ text messaging and/or data plan can send text messages to 9-1-1 in an emergency when they are unable to place a phone call.
Text-to-911 is intended for use in three scenarios:
- For individuals who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or have a speech disability
- For someone who is in a situation where it is unsafe to place a voice call to 911
- For an individual who is experiencing a medical emergency and may be unable to speak
“We are thrilled to officially launch text-to-911 service here in Maryland,” said Kevin Kinnally, associate director of the Maryland Association of Counties. “While a phone call is still the preferred way to contact 9-1-1, the ability to send a text message to 9-1-1 gives residents and visitors — particularly those who may have difficulty placing a voice call — better access to emergency services.”
How to text 9-1-1
Residents in need of emergency services and are unable to place a phone call can enter 9-1-1 in the “To” line of a new text message and begin the message with the location of the emergency and the type of help needed — police, fire, or emergency medical services.
Once the message has been received at the 9-1-1 call center, a 9-1-1 specialist will respond. You should be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions.
Additional tips for using text-to-911 service:
- As with all text messages, messages to 9-1-1 may take longer to receive, could be received out of order, and/or may not be received at all
- If text-to-911 service is not available, you will receive a bounce-back message from your carrier telling you to place a phone or relay call instead
- Photos and videos cannot be received by 9-1-1 call centers
- English is the preferred language for text messaging, though some limited translation services may be available in your area
- Keep text messages short and simple, and avoid using slang or abbreviations
- Including an additional contact on your text message may prevent it from being received by 9-1-1
- Call if you can, text if you can’t
- Do not text and drive
Next Generation 9-1-1
Maryland is accelerating its move toward the deployment of a statewide Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911 system) – which will make public safety both more effective and more responsive by improving wireless caller location, accommodating incoming text/photo/video, and managing crisis-driven call overflows.
The Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland, a 2018 MACo Legislative Initiative, continues to meet and make recommendations for the implementation, technology, funding, governance, and ongoing statewide development of NG911.
As a result of the Commission’s work, Governor Larry Hogan last year signed into law SB 339/ HB 397, Public Safety – 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone System (Carl Henn’s Law), a 2019 MACo Legislative Initiative to update state laws, and the 9-1-1 financing system to provide the flexibility and resources needed for the deployment of a statewide NG911 network.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.