Text-to-911

What-Comm 911 is pleased to announce that, as of June 2021, we can accept Text-to-911 messages when a voice call is not safe or possible to make.  Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

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

  1. For a person who is deaf, hard of hearing, or has a speech difference (you can use Text-to-911 in ANY situation, please identify yourself as deaf, hard of hearing or as having a speech difference when texting 911 in a non-emergent situation.)
  2. For someone who is in a situation where it is not safe to place a voice call to 911, i.e., the voice call would give the caller’s location away, or the situation is too volatile for a voice call.
  3. For a medical emergency which renders the person incapable of speech, but able to text.
  4. When cell service is spotty and a call cannot go through, but a text will.

  1. You must have a text or data plan for your cell phone to place a Text-to-911 message.
  2. Enter “911” into the “to” or “recipient” field.
  3. The first message should be location and type of help needed, for instance, “1234 Main Street, Bellingham, need ambulance for injury.”
  4. Press “send” and stay with your phone.
  5. Be prepared to answer questions, via text, use full words, keep messages concise.
  6. Follow instructions from the 911 operator.

  1. A person who is deaf, hard of hearing and/or has a speech difference can use Text-to-911 in ANY situation, we just ask you identify yourself as such when texting for a non-emergency situation.
  2. A text or data plan for your cell phone is required to place a Text-to-911 message.
  3. Silence your cell phone if in a dangerous situation, because when the 911 operator returns a text, your phone will send an audible notification to you. This is dependent on your specific phone settings.
  4. 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.

The short answer is: no. Do not send URLs, emojis, photos, or video – they will not go through to the 911 operator. However, if you have relevant video or photos, save them to share with the responding officers.

  1. Call if you can, text only if you can’t.  Text-to-911 should not be used for routine calls unless you are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech difference.
  2. Text-to-911 should be used in emergencies by those who are unable to make a voice call.  The first question the 911 operator will ask is, “can you safely make a voice call?”  Those who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech difference should identify themselves as such and the 911 operator will continue with the non-emergency call via text.
  3. Text-to-911 takes more time and is slower than a voice call with the exchange of information between the person texting and the 911 operator. If you are able, routine calls to 911 should be made via voice call and only use text in an emergency when you are unable to safely make a voice call.

No, unfortunately at this time, the system is set up only for English texting.  There is currently no ability to translate a text from another language within the system being used. The text comes into the 911 center via a phone line, which is not connected to the internet, making translation impossible.

We are adjusting some City operations due to the current COVID-19 surge, prioritizing essential services and the safety of employees and the public.