CALIFORNIA—On Friday, May 1, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) announced that the Text-To-911 service would now be available to residents.

The LASD described the service as “a silent way to reach out for help.” It can be used to reach law enforcement, the fire department, and/or medical professionals, and was also developed to assist those with hearing and speech impairments.

According to a statement by the LASD, “when you text to 9-1-1, your emergency text message will be routed to the local 911 call center who will coordinate an emergency response to your location.”

Text-to-911 is only available in specific locations. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “encourages emergency call centers to begin accepting texts, but it is up to each call center to decide the particular method in which to implement and deploy text-to-911 technology.”

In fact, “FCC rules require all wireless carriers and other providers of text messaging applications in the United States to deliver emergency texts to call centers that request them.” Text messaging providers must deliver the service within 6 months of the call center request. 

Both the LASD and FCC noted that making voice calls to 911 is always preferable – since they provide more information to call centers. A video promoting the service by the LASD even ends with the slogan “Call if you can. Text if you can’t.”

View the Facebook announcement of the service by the LASD here. The FCC guide to Text-to-911 can be found here, and a list of areas that provide the service (updated monthly) can be viewed here.