Text-to-911

Text-to-911 refers to the ability to send text messages to local 911 call centers during an emergency. The Lexington Division of Enhanced 911 is equipped to receive and send text messages.

When should text-to-911 be used?

Call if you can, text if you must. The public should only text 911 if it is the only option and making a voice call to 911 isn’t possible. This service will be very useful to those who are non-verbal, hard of hearing, deaf and speech impaired. Some other examples include: 

  • The caller is facing a threatening situation and a voice call could increase the threat.
  • The caller is injured or suffered a medical condition and cannot speak.
  • The caller is in a remote location and can only send out a text message.
  • Phone lines and cell phone towers are overwhelmed and only a text can get through. Examples include sporting and concert events, congested areas around shopping centers during the holidays, large traffic jams, rush-hour in some areas, etc.

How to text 911?

  • Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” field (do not enter with dashes like “9-1-1”)
  • The first text message to 911 should be brief and contain the location of the emergency and type of help needed
  • Push the send button
  • Be prepared to answer questions and follow instruction from the 911 call taker
  • Text in simple words – do not use abbreviations
  • Keep text messages brief and concise
  • Once you have initiated a text-to-911 conversation, do not delete the message or turn off the phone until the dispatcher tells you it is okay.

Can 911 send a text from 911?

The Lexington E911 may initiate a text-from-911 in certain circumstances, such as a 911 hang-up call. When a caller dials 911 and hangs up before the call is answered, 911 will attempt a callback. If that call is not unanswered, the 911 center will send a text to callers using a wireless phone to determine if there is an emergency.

When a caller accidentally dials 911, the caller should always remain on the line to confirm that there is not an emergency. Callers will not be chastised by the 911 Operator for accidentally dialing 911.

Do all wireless providers offer this service?

Top tier 911 providers support this service, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-mobile. Other cell providers who rely on a major telephone carrier’s network should be able to send a text-to-911. Please check with your provider. 

Can I text 911 outside Lexington/Fayette County?

Several other counties in Kentucky are now able to accept text-to-911. The Federal Communications Commission maintains a mass list of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) nationwide that are ready for text-to-911. You can download the list directly from the FCC at fcc.gov/files/text-911-master-psap-registryxlsx.

The FCC website currently lists Frankfort/Franklin County and Owensboro/Daviess County as offering the service, though other counties, such as Garrard, Greenup, Jessamine and Lincoln counties are also providing the service.

Can a caller send a video or picture through text-to-911?

No, photos and videos cannot be sent to 911 at this time.

Will the 911 Center automatically know a text caller’s location?

When making a voice call to 911, the call taker will typically receive the caller’s phone number and their approximate location automatically. This is called the “Enhanced 911” or “E911.” 911 calls from wireless phones are generally not very specific on location. However, when receiving a text-to-911, the 911 call taker will not receive this automated location information. For this reason, a person sending a text-to-911 must provide an accurate location as quickly as possible.

Can text-to-911 support messages in a foreign language?

No. Text-to-911 does not have foreign language translation capability. A text-to-911 written in a foreign language will receive a message indicating that the caller must make a voice call to 911 so that language interpretation services can be added to the call to assist with translation.

How quickly will text messages be delivered and received from E911?

Text-to-911 messages pass through multiple public and private networks, so the user’s experience with delivery speed and text response will be similar to non-emergency text messages.