The Fairfax Police Department in conjunction with the San Rafael and Novato Police Departments dispatch centers are excited to announce that we now have the ability to accept text-to-911 service throughout our jurisdictions.  The California Highway Patrol also accepts text-to-911.  The Marin County Sheriff’s Department should begin accepting text-to-911 calls in June 2019.

Wireless customers can now send a text message to 911 in an emergency.  It is important to note that text-to-911 should only be used in an emergency situation when placing a call is not possible.  For example, if the caller is deaf, hard-of hearing, speech impaired, or if speaking out loud would put the caller in danger.

If you need to text 911, remember these steps:

  • Call if you can, text if you can’t. Calling 911 is still the best way to report an emergency.
  • Text to 911 is designed for situations where you cannot speak safely.
  • Don’t text and drive
  • Include your location and the type of emergency
  • Do not use slang, abbreviations or emojis
  • Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions
  • Do not send pictures, videos or other types of media
  • Do not group text with 911

If text-to-911 is not available you will receive a bounce back message; You must call 911 to receive assistance.

Text-to-911 FAQ

What is Text-to-911?

Text-to-911 is the ability to send a text message to a 911 dispatcher from your mobile phone or handheld device.

Can I text 911?

Text-to-911 is not available everywhere and is not always available when roaming.  You must subscribe to your wireless carrier’s text or data plan in order to make or receive text messages.  If text-to-911 is not available in your area or is temporarily unavailable, you should receive a message indicating that text-to-911 is not available and to call 911 for assistance.

 When should I text 911?

Text-to-911 is intended primarily for use in three emergency scenarios:

  1. For an individual who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, or has a speech disability.
  2. For someone who is in a situation where it is not safe to place a voice call to 911.
  3. A medical emergency that renders a person incapable of speech.


What are some of the challenges with text-to-911?

  • The five major phone carriers (AT&T, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon offer text to 911 service in Marin County. Depending on the technology and the device used, customers of other carriers may be able to send a text to 911.
  • As with all text messages, they may take longer to receive and respond than a voice call and could be received out of order or not at all.
  • Texting 911 also does not provide an accurate or reliable location of the texter as text GPS information is not equal to current wireless phone call location technology.
  • Voice calls are real time communication while texting is not.
  • Translation services are available with voice calls.  At this time, translation services are not available for text-to-911; please text in English only.


How do I text 911?

  • Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” or “recipient” field;
  • The first text to 911 should be short and include the location and nature of the emergency;
  • Push the “Send” button;
  • Answer the questions and follow instructions from the 911 dispatcher;
  • Text in simple words.  Do not use abbreviations, slang or emojis;
  • Keep text messages short (140 characters or less);
  • Do not send pictures or videos to 911.
  • It is important to provide your location as quickly as possible keeping in mind that text to 911 service does not provide an accurate or reliable location of the texter.


How will I know if 911 received my text?

A 911 call center should respond to the text.  If text-to-911 is not available, you should receive a message from the wireless carrier stating that text-to-911 is unavailable and that you must place a voice or relay call to 911.

Is there a charge to text 911?

Standard text messaging rates apply to text-to-911.

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