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Posted on: June 24, 2021

Whatcom County 911 now offers Text-to-911

Text-to-911

What-Comm 911 is pleased to announce that cellular phone users in Whatcom County can now send text messages to 911 in an emergency, as What-Comm 911 can now accept Text-to-911 messages.

Text-to-911 is a vital service intended for use by those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who may have a speech difference. For individuals with any of these conditions placing a phone call to 911 was, in the past, either difficult or not an option. 

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 fourth option for Text-to-911 is if the cellular phone user is in a location where cell coverage is spotty, however a text would go through.

There are a few things one should know about how Text-to-911 works:

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

There are some things which the Text-to-911 system cannot handle:

  • Emojis – the entire text will not send if emojis are used;
  • Photos/videos – What-Comm 911 is not equipped to receive photos or videos via Text-to-911; and
  • Links or URL’s – What-Comm 911 is not equipped to receive a URL via Text-to-911.

This new feature enabling cellular phone uses to text 911 operators will broaden the capability of What-Comm to help residents in Whatcom County.  It is an exciting and long-awaited addition to our system.  “Our 911 operators are thrilled to offer Text-to-911 as an addition to their services,” said What-Comm 911 Deputy Director Greg Erickson. “Whatcom County residents, regardless of circumstance or physically limiting conditions, are now able to reach 911.”

Text-to-911 is currently running and available for use.  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 www.cob.org/text911.

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