Text-to-911 Now Available Statewide in Minnesota

Calling still the preferred method for 911 services

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ST. PAUL, Minn. – In an emergency, safely dialing 911 might not be an option, as one may need to remain quiet in a dangerous situation, or if an individual has hearing loss, it can make calling 911 near impossible.

The Department of Public Safety Emergency Communication Networks (DPS-ECN) has been working with Minnesota to develop Text-to-911, an alternative to calling in an emergency.

“Imagine having to hide from an intruder in your bedroom closet or witnessing a domestic violence situation. Text-to-911 is a lifeline for people who would put themselves in harm’s way if they called 911,” said DPS-ECN Director Jackie Mines. “Speaking with a dispatcher is still the fastest way to receive help, so call if you can, text if you can’t.”

The addition of Text-to-911 can also assist those who have some form of hearing loss, who will now have a direct way to communicate with 911 operators, something that may have been impossible to do previously.

The deployment of this system is fully funded by 911 fees collected from devices capable of originating a 911 emergency telephone call in the state of Minnesota.

Take these steps if you cannot call 911: 

  1. Enter the numbers 9-1-1 into the “To” field
  2. Text your exact address and type of emergency
  3. Send the message
  4. Use simple words, but do not include abbreviations, emoji’s, pictures, or slang
  5. Promptly answer questions and follow instructions

While this service has major potential for emergency communications, it does come with challenges. For instance, response time may be lengthened due to the tim eit takes for a text to be typed to 911 and sent. Delivery of texts and speed of delivery are also not guaranteed.

“The physical act of texting 911 is not that difficult, but it’s important that people follow these steps and provide us with the most accurate information,” said Darlene Pankonie, Chair of the NG911 Committee. “If there’s a delay in answering a dispatcher’s questions, of if you don’t tell us where you are, we can’t help you. This will lead to valuable time lost in an emergency and take dispatchers away from other calls.”

Several reminders to ensure the best service and response from dispatchers

  • Dispatchers prefer calls so they can get cues from background noise and voice inflections. If you text 911, dispatchers will ask if they can all you.
  • Location is not as accurate with texting as it is with a call. Be sure to text your exact address.
  • A text or data plan is required to use Text-to-911.
  • Texts to 911 will get a bounce back message if you are roaming.
  • Texts to 911 have a 160 character limit, can get out of order, or may not be received.
  • There is no language translation service for text to 911.
  • Do not text and drive

This new services should only be used in emergencies. Texting with a false report is a crime. If you accidentally send a text to 911, send another text, or call 911 to let the dispatcher know that there is no emergency.

For more information on the services visit the DPS-ECN website.