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Now you can text 911... just not from everywhere

Emily Price
May 15, 2014
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Text-to-911 became available in select markets today. As the name implies, the service allows you to text your emergency to first responders rather than call. There's just one issue: it doesn't work in most places. The list of supported cities is so small in fact, you should probably just assume the feature isn't up and running in your town.

Today's launch stems from a policy the FCC adopted back in January to make text-to-911 available everywhere. All four major carriers signed on to launch the service by May 15th -- that's today -- everywhere a call center could support it. Turns out, they're pretty few and far between. Locations that are online today are using existing TTY systems (traditionally used by the hearing impaired) to accept texts, or new browser-based solutions. However, Iowa, Maine and Vermont are the only ones who've managed so far to get support statewide.

But even if you're one of the few who have text-to-911 support already, that doesn't mean you should use it. While the feature will certainly be helpful for the deaf (or if, you know, you're standing in the bank during a robbery), it can hurt you in other situations. 911 texts will have to include your full name and address, a needed step that will take a bit of time to type out on that QWERTY keyboard, as will your description of the crime scene (you won't be able to include photos or video). Texting also prevents an emergency worker from being able to hear what's going on around you or from asking quick, sometimes life-saving questions.

Text-to-911 will launch across the US by the end of the year. For now if you try and use the service somewhere it isn't available you'll get a bounce back message encouraging you to call instead -- something you likely should have done in the first place.

[Image credit: Getty]

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