County public safety dispatch centers now offering Text to 911

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Residents who are in an emergency situation and cannot communicate verbally are now able to use the text to 911 service to request help from public service agencies in San Mateo County.

Effective immediately, all 911 dispatch centers for law enforcement and fire agencies are equipped to receive and respond to mobile phone SMS Text to 911 messages, according to a county statement.

That includes community members who are deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired, as well as those in too dangerous a situation to call 911.

For the deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired communities, texting to 911 is always an acceptable way to contact 911 for help, the county says. Others should only use it when speaking is not possible or may place an individual at risk, such as a domestic abuse situation or active shooter incident.

Otherwise, it’s always best to speak with dispatch, county officials said.

Helpful tips when using the Text to 911 service:

  • Always provide the exact location of the emergency
  • Text messages should be brief and easy to understand
  • Do not use abbreviations, emojis or slang
  • Remember that the ability to send/receive images and videos is limited and often dependent on the cellular provider
  • Texts can only be received in English at this time — this services will be available in additional languages in the near future.