Plano, Texas is just the latest city to upgrade its 911 system to receive text messages, but as local NBC news reported, not all area counties or cities have the same option. Clearly, the ability to text (rather than call) 911 can save your life, and may be the only option for the hearing impaired. And the more cities and counties that get on board, the better.

But texting 911 isn’t available nationwide yet, so here’s what you need to know.

Can You Read Me Now?

While the Federal Communications Commission encourages all emergency call centers to begin accepting texts, it remains up to each call center to decide the when and how of deploying text-to-911 technology. At the same time, wireless carriers and text messaging apps are required to deliver emergency texts to call centers that do accept them. And while the map of areas covered by 911 texting is growing, it doesn’t cover the whole country.

So, what happens if your area doesn’t have teat-to-911? “If you attempt to send a text to 911 where the service is not yet available, FCC rules require all wireless carriers and other text messaging providers to send an automatic “bounce-back” message that will advise you to contact emergency services by another means, such as making a voice call or using telecommunications relay service (for persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability).”

To Call, or to Text?

If you live in Plano, or other areas that allow texting to 911, public safety officials still advise that calling is preferable. Texting 911 in the event of emergency, however, could be the only option for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or caught in a situation where talking aloud could jeopardize their safety.

For your own safety, check with your local emergency services to determine whether text-to-911 is available where you live, before an emergency arises.

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