Did you know? You can text to 911 in Pennsylvania if a call might put you in danger

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(WTAJ) — Did you know that you can text for help to 911 in Pennsylvania? The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) has been updating 911 dispatch centers for a few years now and most of the state is able to text for help.

Text-to-911 is a program that allows people to text 911 if they’re not able to call, for any reason. Just as in a voice call, the 911 telecommunicator will continue to ask more questions about your emergency – confirming your location, the people involved, and any other details that are important to responders.

Typing questions and answers back and forth with a 911 telecommunicator takes a considerable amount of time, so please be patient and be as clear and concise as possible with your answers. For this reason, PEMA recommends placing the actual phone call.

Text-to-911 may be most helpful in these emergency situations:

  • By individuals who have speech or hearing impairments, or who are having a medical emergency that renders them incapable of speech;
  • Instances when making noise may endanger the caller, such as a home invasion/robbery, or instances of domestic violence or an abduction.

Currently, only five of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties don’t support Text-to-911, while a small handful is in progress. As you can see in the map below, a majority of counties in the commonwealth are able to take advantage of the feature with all four major US carriers if necessary.

While Somerset County is still in a waiting phase, most of our WTAJ Central PA region has had the Text-to-911 option available since at least 2017.

How to Send a 911 Text Message

  • Step 1:  Create a new text message or conversation
  • Step 2:  Type 911 in the “To” or “Recipient” field
  • Step 3:  Describe your location: Include the address and municipality (township or borough)
  • Step 4:  Describe the situation: Include what type of emergency help is needed
  • Step 5:  Send the text message

Text-to-911 is an important tool to enhance communications with the public in an emergency, but it has many limitations. It’s important to keep these things in mind:

  • A text or data plan is required to place a text to 911.
  • Text-to-911 conversations cannot include more than one person. Do not send your emergency text to anyone other than 911.
  • Do not use abbreviations or emojis.
  • Voice calls are real-time communication and Text-to-911 is not. As with all text messages, text messages to 911 may take longer to receive, may get out of order, or may not be received at all.
  • 911 call takers will not be able to hear any background noise that could help with assisting during the emergency.
  • Location information will be limited to the cell tower that your cell phone is communicating through. A 911 telecommunicator won’t automatically know where you are.

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