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Can you text 9-1-1? Or, more importantly, should you?

Can you text 9-1-1? Or, more importantly, should you?

Can you text 9-1-1? There are very few people out there who know that text-to-9-1-1 is an option, but we’re not surprised. Texting 9-1-1 is a relatively new feature in the industry (hard to believe, but true) and it’s fairly advanced technology for most public safety answering points (PSAPs or 9-1-1 call centers).

The North Central Texas Emergency Communications District has had text since January of 2013, but it is also available in other parts of North Texas outside of our service area. If you want to find out if text is available in your area, you’ll need to contact your local law enforcement agency. Try dialing their 10-digit emergency number or checking their website.

Text-to-9-1-1 is a useful tool and has been adopted by agencies all over the country, but it’s not as good as a voice call to 9-1-1. There are a lot of reasons telecommunicators prefer that you call rather than text, and it’s about more than a personal preference.  

  • Background Noise

Telecommunicators are not trained to just ask you questions and write down the answers. They are first responders who observe through listening what’s happening in an emergency, and you’d be surprised what they can pick up on. There have been many cases of 9-1-1 call takers receiving calls where the caller can’t speak freely and the telecommunicator must use his or her skills to identify the emergency situation. That ability is lost through a text, and it’s one of the main reasons telecommunicators have divided opinions about text-to-9-1-1 as a tool.

  • Immediate Replies

There’s nothing more frustrating than those three dots at the bottom of your phone when you’re waiting for a text. Now imagine that scenario but someone’s life is on the line. Texting is a slower communication tool and call takers have to wait for your response before they can take action. During a call, things move a lot faster. Even if a caller is interrupted mid sentence, telecommunicators can use their training to pick up on the background noise to identify key details of the scene. If you just stop texting, then they’ll never know.

  • Tone of Voice

If you’ve ever been on the phone with someone and they’re saying one thing but the way they’re saying it clearly means something else, then you know exactly what we’re talking about. Your tone says a lot about how you’re feeling, and if you’re in an emergency and panicking, sometimes the right words just won’t come to you. But the training and skill of 9-1-1 telecommunicators allow them to identify those cues and coach you through answering their questions. If you’re texting them, they may not be able to pick up on those subtle differences.   

So, when should you text 9-1-1? And how do you do it?

We obviously believe text-to-9-1-1 is useful despite its limitations or else we wouldn’t have been one of its early adopters. But we think you should only use it if you are hard of hearing or Deaf, have a speech impairment, or if you are in a situation where it would be unsafe for you to speak, such as during a home invasion where talking would give away your location to an intruder. 

can you text 911?

You can text 9-1-1 the same way you text anyone else. Open your messaging feature, enter “911” into the “To:” field, and type out your message. If texting is not available in your area, you’ll receive a bounceback message prompting you to call. To receive a quick response, you should include in your text your location (as specific as you can make it), the type of emergency, and what kind of services you need (police, fire, or EMS). Answer all of the telecommunicator’s questions and stay alert in case more information is requested.

Why is text-to-9-1-1 not available nation-wide?

The answer to that is pretty simple: it’s complicated.

A PSAP can’t support text until they have begun to adapt to what we call in the business Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1). NG9-1-1 is about adopting IP-based technology within the PSAP and moving away from analog tech, which is where the majority of the country still is. However, adapting your technology means purchasing new equipment and some PSAPs just can’t afford that. At the same time, other PSAPs are concerned that updating their technology may open up their center for things to go wrong. Text capabilities can also be a little controversial to some. Calling, all of us emergency number professionals agree, is always going to be better. So, some centers wonder why having text is necessary if we want to encourage calling in the first place.  

At the end of the day, each PSAP has to decide what works best for their telecommunicators, their technology, and their citizens. There isn’t a formula for the perfect 9-1-1 center, and different PSAPs have to think about different variables that might affect them.  

We at NCT9-1-1 have had text-to-9-1-1 since 2013. If you are a resident of our region or visiting, you can text 9-1-1 from anywhere in our service area. However, you should only text if you are Deaf or hard of hearing, have a speech impairment, or if it is too dangerous for you to call. Call if you can, text if you can’t.

NCT9-1-1 Service Area
Collin County
Excluding cities of Plano, Richardson, and Wylie

Dallas County
Only cities of Balch Springs, Cockrell Hill, Sachse, Seagoville, and Wilmer

Erath County

Ellis County
Excluding cities of Ennis, Glenn Heights, and Mansfield

Hood County

Hunt County

Johnson County
Excluding cities of Burleson and Mansfield

Kaufman County

Navarro County

Palo Pinto County

Parker County
Excluding city of Azle

Rockwall County

Somervell County

Wise County

Should you call 9-1-1 for COVID-19? Probably not.

Should you call 9-1-1 for COVID-19? Probably not.

The announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of questions to go unanswered, but your local governments and agencies are doing their best to get you useful resources. We’ve put together a resource page for our communities to help you get access to the vital information you and your loved ones need.

Emergency services may not be at the top of your mind right now, but if you experience a life-threatening emergency during the COVD-19 pandemic, we want to make sure you know what to expect. There are a few steps your local Public Safety Answering Point, PSAP or a 9-1-1 center, may have taken to protect themselves, the first responders, and you.

First, it’s important to note that 9-1-1 is part of critical infrastructure. That means the services it provides are crucial to the safe functioning of your community. You might recognize emergency services as part of critical infrastructure, but other community components like public works, trash collectors, public health, transportation systems, water supply services, and more are all part of critical infrastructure. Because of this, these resources cannot close down due to a pandemic, or for any reason at all really, and they must take certain steps to protect themselves and you.

At the recommendation of the CDC, 9-1-1 agencies have taken certain precautions to protect the health and safety of their telecommunicators so that they may continue to provide life-saving assistance. These precautions might include:

  • Public Safety Answering Points may be locked down to essential personnel.
  • Callers may be asked screening questions such as: are you experiencing flu-like symptoms such as a fever or cough? Have you traveled out of the country with the past 14 days? Have you been in contact with someone who may have traveled out of the country within the past 14 days?
  • A focus on PPE, personal protection equipment, for first responders.
  • Routine calls may not receive a visit from an officer and reports may be taken over the phone.

What precautions are utilized will depend on the individual law enforcement agency. As of yet, we have not seen a huge increase in 9-1-1 calls since the pandemic announcement, however it is important that citizens continue to use this emergency service responsibly. We put together a quick FAQ to help our citizens better understand when it is appropriate to dial 9-1-1.

Should I call 9-1-1 if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

No, only if life threatening. Telecommunicators don’t have the best resources to assist you with handling symptoms. The best person to call is your health care provider. They’ll direct you with next steps. Or, look into getting tested.

Should I call 9-1-1 to report neighbors/friends/family members with COVID-19 symptoms?

No. There is no need to report those around you who may be showing symptoms. By calling 9-1-1 to “report” people with symptoms, you are tying up the emergency number lines and preventing those in actual emergencies from receiving the lifesaving help that they need.

Should I call 9-1-1 if I run out of supplies?

No, but you can dial 2-1-1 to get assistance for essential services.

Should I call 9-1-1 if I have questions about the coronavirus?

No, but you can dial 2-1-1 to reach a 24/7 coronavirus help line or visit

Pay attention to your local news and follow the suggestions and instructions of your local leadership. By working together and following the guidance of our health care professionals, we’ll be able to get back to normal sooner.

The 9-1-1 Gala has Been Postponed

The 9-1-1 Gala has Been Postponed

The 9-1-1 Gala has been postponed.

Due to our region’s commitment to the health and safety of our telecommunicators and the role of our district as protectors of the community and with the recent announcement from the Ellis County Judge’s Office, we have determined that postponing the 9-1-1 Gala is our responsibility as a public safety entity.

We have yet to determine a date for the postponed event but we will update you as soon as possible. We apologize that this update comes so close to the event. We would appreciate it if you would share this news with your staff members who were planning on attending so that we may get the word out.

If you have any questions please contact: or

Thank you,

9-1-1 Gala Planning Committee

How To Become Compliant With Kari’s Law

How To Become Compliant With Kari’s Law

In December of 2013, Kari Hunt Dunn was stabbed to death by her husband in a motel room in east Texas. Her 9-year-old daughter repeatedly tried dialing 9-1-1, but the motel phone required “9” to be dialed to reach any outside line, including emergency services. This event launched Kari’s Law, which requires all organizations or businesses that utilize a multi-line telephone system (MLTS) to provide direct access to 9-1-1. Businesses must become compliant by February 16, 2020, however the federal version of Kari’s Law only applies to MLTS that will be installed after this deadline. If your business is within the state of Texas, however, all MLTS must be compliant or require a waiver.    

It is the responsibility of the business or organization utilizing the MLTS to maintain compliance. Texas was the first to pass a state version of this law, and compliance for all Texas organizations (or a waiver detailing why compliance) was required by September 1, 2016. If you’re struggling with next steps and how to become compliant to Kari’s Law, we can help. We’ll discuss what we learned in Texas over the past few years on our journey to compliance. 

How to become compliant with kari's law

Find Out Your Current Status

Before you do anything, you have to know where you stand. Contact the provider of your MLTS and ask them how they’re set up to reach 9-1-1. Specific questions you can ask include:

  • Do you offer direct access to 9-1-1?
  • Is your service compliant with Kari’s Law?
  • When did you become compliant? Or when will you become compliant?
  • Have you tested your system to ensure direct access to 9-1-1 is available?

If your MLTS provider is already compliant, then your work is almost done. If you can’t get any of these questions answered, you can contact your local 9-1-1 authority for advice on next steps. NCT9-1-1 is your 9-1-1 authority if your business is in our service area, but if you’re not sure who your authority is you can contact your local police or sheriff’s office by their 10-digit emergency number.  

Test Your System

If your MLTS provider confirms that their service offers direct access to 9-1-1, you shouldn’t just take their word for it. You need to test it. Contact your local Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) by their 10-digit emergency number and let them know you’re interested in testing your MLTS and ask what time and day would work best for them. When testing, don’t stop at confirming direct access into 9-1-1. Ensure that your provider also meets the standards of the Ray Baum’s Act and that a dispatchable location is also provided. That would mean a room or officer number is provided to the 9-1-1 telecommunicator, for example. 

What Happens If You’re Not Compliant? 

February 16 is the deadline for compliance for all organizations across the United States. Those who fail to become and stay compliant may face fees or fines, liability concerns, or, most importantly, are risking the health and safety of its employees and customers. 

Kari’s Law was inspired by a horrific event. Don’t wait to meet compliance and risk your place of business becoming the setting of the next one.