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Use a cellphone to text 911 in an emergency

Aurora’s 911 professionals can receive and respond to emergency requests sent by text message, with the support of Text-to-911 service.

Text-to-911 offers an alternative to voice calls to 911 for people who are in a situation when a voice call may increase their danger, who have limited cellphone reception or who are hearing-impaired.

Testing with the four major cellular-network providers – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile – was completed June 2, 2016, and Aurora’s 911 professionals are fully trained on how to handle and respond to Text-to-911 messages. Most smaller cellphone companies rely on the cellular networks run by the tested providers.

Text messages to 911 in Aurora will be received by Aurora911 dispatchers via their phone system, accompanied by the location of the nearest cellular tower to the sender of the text. Users are strongly encouraged to begin their text session by including a detailed address or location in their first message.  However, in times when a user is unable to provide their location, Aurora 911 has partnered with RapidSOS to empower 911 professionals with access to a collaborative information clearinghouse which provides critical device location data, and other life-saving information. 

“When seconds count, a phone call to 911 is still the fastest way to initiate a call for help during an emergency,” said Tina Buneta, Director of Aurora911. “However, situations exist where a voice call may increase danger for a caller. Text-to-911 empowers all residents and guests of our community to reach out in a quiet, discrete and undetected manner.”

Users should understand and follow these guidelines for Text-to-911:

  • Provide address or specific location and description of the emergency in initial text message.
  • Photos and videos are not currently supported.
  • Messaging apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger that utilize data networks are not supported, only text messages sent using cellular networks.
  • Dispatchers will reply to text messages using their phone system.
  • If Text-to-911 service is not available (using tower outside a jurisdiction that does not support Text-to-911, using a roaming cellular network, etc.), the user should receive a bounce-back text indicating an error.
  • Unlike phone calls to 911 using mobile phones, Text-to-911 requires the phone to be on a service contract with a cellular provider.
  • Text-to-911 should be treated the same as phone calls to 911 and reserved for emergencies and urgent matters, not for non-emergency questions or tips. All other public safety communication should be made via phone call to non-emergency dispatch at 303.627.3100.

For more information about Text-to-911 service, see the FCC’s frequently asked questions.

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