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Frequently Asked Questions: Text to 911
Image of Text to 911 in Loudoun County Logo What is “text to 911” technology?
Text to 911 is the ability to send a text message (SMS) to 911 from your mobile phone or handheld device. 

Effective March 1, 2016, Loudoun County’s new Emergency Communications Center will have the capability to receive text to 911 messages. Please note, however, that wireless carriers have up to 180 days to activate the service. Individuals with questions regarding their carrier’s text to 911 capabilities should contact their service providers directly for information.

When should I text 911?
Call if you can. Text if you can’t. Contact 911 only in a fire, medical or police emergency. Public safety officials say that text to 911 should be thought of as a last resort and not the normal process for calling in an emergency. You should text to 911 in the following circumstances: 

  1. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability.
  2. If you cannot speak due to an injury or medical condition.
  3. If you are in a threatening situation and a voice call could increase the threat.
  4. If you cannot make a call because your mobile phone reception is poor.

How do I text to 911?
1. On your mobile device, enter the numbers “911” in the “To” or “Recipient” field of a new text message.
  • Be sure to enter only the numbers “911.” Do not enter any punctuation in the “To” field.
  • Text to 911 cannot include more than one person. Do not copy your emergency text to anyone other than 911. Wait until you are safe to notify others of your situation.

2. The first text to 911 should be short, include the location of the emergency, and ask for police, fire or ambulance.
  • Keep text messages short. Text in simple words – no abbreviations or slang.
  • Translation services are not available at this time; therefore, any text to 911 call placed in Loudoun County should be in English.
  • Photos and videos cannot be sent to 911 at this time. 

3. Press the “Send” button.

4. Answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 call-taker.

Where can I text to 911?
  • Effective March 1, 2016, text to 911 is available in Loudoun County and all of its incorporated towns; however, text to 911 is not available in every jurisdiction 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. 

How will I know if 911 received my text? 
  • A 911 call center should respond to the text. 
  • If text to 911 service is not available where you are located, you should receive a message from the wireless carrier stating that text to 911 is not available. Instead, place a voice call to 911; or if you are hearing impaired, text Virginia Relay (711) to connect to 911.  
  • Only text 911 in an emergency. People who send prank texts can be identified and possibly prosecuted according to local laws/regulations. 

Is there a charge to text to 911? 
  • Standard text messaging rates apply. 

Can I text to 911 in languages other than English? 
  • Translation services are not available at this time and any text to 911 call placed in Loudoun County should be in English.

What are some of the limitations associated with text to 911 service? 
  • As with all text messages, texts-to 911 may take longer to receive and respond to than a voice call, does not provide the location of the texter and could be received out of order, or may not be received at all.
  • Voice calls are real-time communication and text to 911 is not.
  • Pictures or videos cannot be received by 911 at this time. 
  • If you include anyone else on your text to 911 it may not be received by 911.
  • At this time translation services for text to 911 are not available; please text in English only.


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