Text-to-911 now available throughout Washington

The Text-to-911 service is now available statewide.

The Washington State Emergency Management Division shared that as of June 30, all counties and Public Safety Answering Points in the state of Washington can now accept Text-to-911, thanks to the state’s Next Generation 911 network.

“The standard for Text-to-911 in Washington and nationally is: ‘Call if you can, text if you can’t,’ said Adam Wasserman, State 911 Coordinator. “A voice call to 911 will get help moving faster than a text message, but use the method that keeps you, as the caller, safest.”

Officials say that all 911 centers in Washington have made the necessary changes to their call handling equipment and can receive and respond to requests for assistance that arrive via text messages. 

Image from Wa Mil Dept

Currently, photos, videos, or emoji can’t be sent to 911 at this time. Officials ask that residents just send basic text.

The State 911 Office is working with the statewide 911 call delivery network contractor to perform the necessary upgrades to enable delivery of Real-Time Text messaging –which should be available to the 911 call centers beginning in Q4 2023. 

As it is now, standard “SMS text messages” arrive almost immediately after the person hits “send,” but the entire message arrives at once. With Real-Time Text (RTT) technology, each character arrives as the person types it into their phone.

Officials remind residents that you should always call 9-1-1 if you can. A conversation can relay the needed information to get you the help or services you need much more quickly than a text conversation. 

“Call if you can; text if you can’t. A dispatcher will likely ask you if you are available to talk.”

Text-to-911 is intended to benefit people that may not be able to speak due to an emergency situation, such as a home invasion or abusive partner, as well as individuals that are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities. 

“If you are using Text-to-911 because you are trying to not be heard, don’t forget to silence your cell phone.”

The 911 system is funded by an existing fee that is already included in phone service fees.