San Juan County launches ‘Text-to-911’ for emergency response

Submitted by San Juan County.

San Juan County is pleased to announce that cellular phone users in the county can now send text messages to 911 in an emergency. This new feature increases accessibility to emergency services and helps San Juan County’s emergency response teams quickly and effectively assist residents and visitors alike. San Juan County is the 32nd county in Washington to implement the new feature.

“With the challenging geography of our county, Text-to-911 will give more accessibility to those who have minimal cell phone coverage,” said Sheriff Ron Krebs. “Nationwide text to 911 is being used by the hearing impaired as well as those whose safety is in danger of making a 911 phone call. This is another piece that allows us to continue to serve our communities better.”

Text-to-911 is a vital service that can be used by anyone. It is intended, however, for the following users:

• Those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who may have a speech disability, now have another course of action, rather than a phone call.

• Text-to-911 will also work for someone who is in a situation where it is not safe to place a voice call to 911, as well as someone who finds themselves in a medical emergency which renders them incapable of speech but able to text.

• The cellular phone user is in a location where cell coverage is spotty, however, a text would go through, this is a great tool.

Emergency response crews urge 911-users to call, if possible, but text if they need to. Texting should only be utilized when calling isn’t an option. Users should also be aware that texting is not always instantaneous, meaning it may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a text-to-911 situation.

How Text-to-911 works

• You must have a text or data plan for your cell phone to place a Text-to-911 message. There is no charge to the customer for sending a text to 911.

• When sending the text, enter “911” into the “to” or “recipient” field.

• The first message should be location and type of help needed, for instance, “1234 Spring Street, Friday Harbor, need ambulance for injury.”

• Press “send” and stay with your phone.

• Be prepared to answer questions, via text, use full words, keep messages concise.

• Follow instructions from the 911 operator.

The Text-to-911 system cannot handle: emojis – the entire text will not send if emojis are used; photos/videos – San Juan County is not equipped to receive photos or videos via Text-to-911; links or URLs – San Juan County is not equipped to receive a URL via Text-to-911.

San Juan County 911 dispatchers are excited to have the latest technology and ability to assist our community,” said San Juan County Dispatch Supervisor Robin DeLaZerda. “Text-to-911 offers a solution for residents during multiple circumstances. Now 911 is available regardless of physically limiting conditions or cellular service availability. We look forward to having the additional resource to assist our community.”

Text-to-911 is currently running and available for use. The Sheriff’s Office advises that the service has been thoroughly tested and asks residents not to test it for themselves as this ties up a dispatcher while they respond to the text. Please remember Text-to-911 is not yet available in all counties in Washington. If you send a text to 911 from a wireless carrier in a city/county without Text-to-911 capabilities, you will receive a message saying there no such service available and to make a voice call to 911.

For more details and updates about Text-to-911, go to