NCT9-1-1 Frequently Asked Questions

What is Private Switch-Automatic Location Information (PS-ALI)?

PS-ALI enables Multi-Line Telephone Switch (MLTS / PBX) owners to update the North Central Texas Council of Government Regional 9-1-1 Database with the specific location of each station or extension within a building, campus or complex providing emergency dispatchers with the most accurate information at the most critical times.

To obtain more information on PS-ALI, please contact LeAnna Russell, ENP.

How do I get a 9-1-1 Address?

Each county within the NCT9-1-1 program is the addressing authority for their area. Municipalities within the county are responsible for issuing 9-1-1 addresses. To obtain a 9-1-1 address, contact your county 9-1-1 addressing coordinator (listed below) or your city hall.

Text-to-911 from the FCC

What is text-to-911 and why would I want to use it?

It is the ability to send a “short message” (SMS) or other kind of text message to 9-1-1. Texting during an emergency could be helpful if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, or if a voice call to 9-1-1 might otherwise be dangerous or impossible. But if you are able to make a voice call to 9-1-1, and if it is safe to do so, you should always make a voice call to 9-1-1.

How can I find out if my area has text-to-911 capability?

Ask your wireless phone company if text-to-911 is available in your area. You can also ask your state legislators or public safety officials if your local 9-1-1 center is prepared to accept text-to-911 messages. Public information lines, such as 2-1-1 or 3-1-1, also may have more information on text-to-911 service availability in your area.

If text-to-911 is available in my area, what type of wireless phone or service do I need to send an emergency text?

Check with your wireless phone company. In general, you must have a text-capable wireless phone and a wireless service subscription or contract with a wireless phone company. You may also need a “wireless data plan.” Remember, you can make a voice call to 9-1-1 using a wireless phone that does not have a service plan, but you cannot send a text message to 9-1-1 without a service contract that includes texting.

Why isn't text-to-911 available everywhere in the country?

Text-to-911 is a new capability. It is likely to become more widely available over time as 9-1-1 centers modernize their systems to accept text messages and request the service from text messaging providers. 

If I am able to text-to-911, will the 9-1-1 center automatically know my location?

Texting to 9-1-1 is different from making a voice call to 9-1-1 in this respect. When you make a voice call to 9-1-1, the call taker will typically receive your phone number and your approximate location automatically. This is called “Enhanced 9-1-1” or “E911.” However, in most cases when you text 9-1-1 from a wireless phone, the call taker will not receive this automated information. For this reason, if you send a text message to 9-1-1, it is important to give the 9-1-1 call taker an accurate address or location as quickly as possible, if you can.

If text-to-911 is available to me, why should I use it only when a voice call to 9-1-1 is not an option?

Voice calls to 9-1-1 are usually the most efficient way to reach emergency help. For example, voice calls allow the 9-1-1 operator to more quickly ask questions and obtain information from the caller, while two-way communication by text can take more time and is subject to limits on the length of text messages. In addition, when you make a voice call to 911, the call taker will typically receive your phone number and the approximate location of your phone automatically.

What are the FCC's rules on 9-1-1?

The FCC’s 9-1-1 rules require the following:

  • Wireless phone companies must transmit all 9-1-1 voice calls to 9-1-1 centers (also known as Public Safety Answering Points, or PSAPs).
  • Wireless phone companies must send information about your telephone number and location to a PSAP when you make a 9-1-1 call so you can get help more easily.
  • The FCC does not have authority to issue rules regulating 9-1-1 centers, and so it cannot require these centers to accept text messages.
  • Wireless phone companies and other text messaging providers (i.e., those that enable consumers to send text messages to and from U.S. phone numbers) must deliver emergency texts to PSAPs upon request. If a PSAP requests text-to-911 service, text messaging providers must deploy the service in that area within six months.
  • Wireless phone companies, as well as certain text messaging applications, must provide automated “bounce-back” messages in instances when you attempt to send a text message to 9-1-1 in an area where text-to-911 service is unavailable. The bounce-back messages will inform you that text-to-911 is not available and direct you to contact emergency services by another means, such as by making a voice call or using telecommunications relay services (if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability).

Wireless 9-1-1

Can my location be determined when using a wireless phone to contact 9-1-1?

Unlike traditional landline 9-1-1 services, that provide PSAPs the exact location of a caller, a wireless 9-1-1 call only provides an approximate location of the caller. In addition, environmental and technical factors may affect the accuracy of the location information or prevent the PSAP from receiving location information entirely.

What type of information is provided to the PSAP when I call 9-1-1 from a wireless phone?

There are two levels of information provided to the PSAP for wireless number/location identification on 9-1-1 calls.

  • Phase I Wireless provides only the telephone number of the caller and does not give a location.
  • Phase II Wireless provides an approximate geographical location of 9-1-1 callers based on latitude and longitude. The FFC sets requirements which accuracy levels are based on today. The requirements are several years old and can affect the accuracy of the location information provided to an answering PSAP.

How is my location determined when calling 9-1-1 from a wireless phone?

Wireless providers ultimately decide how their callers’ location is determined. Today, there are two methods used to determine the location of a wireless 9-1-1 call. Check with your service provider to determine which method it uses.

  • Network-Based: In network-based solutions, carriers use special equipment to locate a caller by using the signals from several towers to triangulate the location of the phone.  Calls from areas with a limited number of towers, such as rural areas, can lead to less accurate results and a lack of Phase II location information available to an answering PSAP.
  • Handset Based: In handset-based solutions, wireless carriers use a GPS chip in the handset to provide location information. The phone must be able to communicate with the GPS satellites to determine its location. Calls from indoor locations or in any environment where the phone cannot determine its location, affect the wireless provider’s ability to provide location information to an answering PSAP.

Accuracy requirements for network-based solutions must be within 300 meters on 95 percent of all 9-1-1 calls and 150 meters on 66 percent of all 9-1-1 calls. Handset-based solutions must be within 50 meters on 95 percent of all 9-1-1 calls and 100 meters on 66 percent of all 9-1-1 calls. These requirements apply only to calls placed outdoors according to FCC requirements updated in 2010.

According to current FCC guidelines, PSAPs are unable to determine a caller’s elevation, so if a caller is in a multi-story building that information is unavailable to a PSAP.

What information does the PSAP need when callers dial 9-1-1 from a wireless phone?

In addition to providing the nature of the emergency, callers always should be prepared to provide the address from which you are calling. If the exact location is unknown, callers should be prepared to provide other information such as cross streets or landmarks to assist PSAPs in determining their location. PSAPs also will ask to verify the telephone number from which a person is calling. Remember, although the PSAP may be able to determine your approximate location, the accuracy of that information can vary.

If PSAPs are unable to retrieve a caller’s location, the information they provide can be critical to getting help in a timely fashion.

What happens if a caller is disconnected while on a 9-1-1 call?

If a caller is disconnected from a wireless 9-1-1 call, they should immediately call 9-1-1 again and let the PSAP know they were disconnected. Location information only is available to the PSAP when the phone is connected to 9-1-1. As a best practive, PSAPs will attempt to reconnect with a disconnected caller, but they do not receive location information when they call a wireless phone.

Is there anything being done to improve the availability and accuracy of wireless 9-1-1 calls?

In February of 2015, the FCC issued additional rules for wireless carriers to improve the availability of location information and location accuracy using technology that is more modern. The FFC based the rules, which apply to all wireless calls, on calls measured from indoor locations, inherently improving the accuracy from call placed outdoors as well.

The following is an overview of the new standards and timelines for achieving them:
Nationwide wireless providers shall provide location information within 50 meters, for the following percentages of wireless 9-1-1 calls within the following timeframes, measured from the effective date of the adoption of this rule:

  • Within 2 years: 40 percent of all wireless 9-1-1 calls.
  • Within 3 years: 50 percent of all wireless 9-1-1 calls.
  • Within 5 years: 70 percent of all wireless 9-1-1 calls.
  • Within 6 years: 80 percent of all wireless 9-1-1 calls.

Vertical location: Wireless providers shall provide vertical location information with wireless 9-1-1 calls as described in this section, within the following timeframes, measured from the effective date of the adoption of this rule:

  • Within 6 years each of the top 25 Commercial Wireless Markets (CMA), nationwide wireless providers shall deploy either a dispatchable location, or a z-axis technology in compliance with any z-axis accuracy metric that has been approved by the FCC.
  • Within 8 years each of the top 50 CMAs, nationwide wireless providers shall deploy either a dispatchable location or a z-axis technology in compliance with any z-axis accuracy metric that has been approved by the FCC – the 10-county CAPCOG region is in this category.
  • Non-nationwide wireless providers that serve any of the top 25 or 50 CMAs will have an additional year to meet each of these benchmarks.

For general information about 9-1-1, view General FAQ.