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If You Can't Call, Text


Milwaukee County's Text-to-911 program allows people to text 911 for emergency service if they are unable to make a voice call. The service increases the equitability of our public safety resources by leveling the accessibility field and provides a tool to increase safety for individuals in situations where it is too dangerous to make a call. Text-to-911 is recommended ONLY when a voice call is not possible. 

How to text 911 in an emergency:

  1. Enter 911 in the To field.
  2. Enter a brief message that contains the location of the emergency and type of help needed. Use simple words and do not use abbreviations.
  3. Hit Send.
  4. Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 call taker.

Tips for Using Text-To-911

  • Text-to-911 is not available if you are roaming
  • A text or data plan is required to place a Text-to-911
  • Photos and videos cannot be sent at this time
  • Text-to-911 cannot include more than one person. Do not send your emergency text to anyone other than 911
  • Do not text and drive
  • Do not abuse the service; it is only for emergencies


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  What is Text-to-911?

Text-to-911 is the ability to send a text message to 911 from your mobile phone or handheld device.

The Text-to-911 program is a technology-based service that uses cell tower information to determine where a text is being sent from.

This means when using Text-to-911 cell phones will connect to the closest cell tower and the cell tower location is sent to 911.

Because the Text-to-911 program is a county service, messages to 911 sent through a non-county cell phone tower will bounce back and not be submitted to 911 emergency services.

  Can I text to 911?

Text-to-911 is not available everywhere 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.

The Text-to-911 program is a county service, messages to 911 sent through a non-county cell phone tower will bounce back and not be submitted to 911 emergency services.

If Text-to-911 is not available in your area, or is temporarily unavailable, you should receive a message indicating that Text-to-911 is not available and to contact 911 by other means.

  When should I text 911?

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

  1. For an individual who is deaf, hard-of-hearing or has a speech disability.
  2. For someone who is in a situation where it is not safe to place a voice call to 911.
  3. A medical emergency that renders the person incapable of speech.

ONLY text 911 in an emergency. Prank-texters can be identified and possibly prosecuted according to local laws/regulations.

  What are the challenges 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.

Text GPS location information is not equal to current wireless location technology.

Voice calls are real-time communication and Text-to-911 is not.

Pictures or videos cannot be received by 911 at this time. However, the department is anticipating next generation 911 technology upgrades in the future that will allow call centers to receive photo and videos.

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. Text in English only.

  How do I use Text-to-911?
  1. Enter the numbers 911 in the To or Recipient field. The first text to 911 should be short, include the location of the emergency, and ask for police, fire or ambulance.
  2. Push the Send button.
  3. Answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 call taker.

Text in simple words – no abbreviations or slang.

Keep text messages short.

  How will I know if 911 received my text?

A 911 call center should respond to the text.

If Text-to-911 is not available, you should receive a message from the wireless carrier stating that Text-to-911 is not available and that you must place a voice or relay call to 911.

  Is there a charge to use Text-to-911?

Standard text messaging rates apply.

  When will I be able to text to 911 from all cell carriers?

All carriers support Text-to-911. Individuals can check with their cell phone provider to confirm.

  Can I text to 911 in languages other than English?

The preferred language for texting to 911 is English. Translation services are limited.


633 W. Wisconsin Ave., Suite 700 
Milwaukee, WI 53203 

821 W. State St., Room 305
Milwaukee, WI 53233

24/7 number: (414) 257-4709

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