Text to 911

911: Call if you can, text if you can’t.

image of cell phone with text: "911. Call if you can. Text if you can't."Naperville’s Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) accepts emergency texts to 911 from individuals who need immediate assistance but can’t talk to a 911 dispatcher. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile/Sprint customers within Naperville can text their exact location and the nature of their emergency to 911, and a dispatcher will respond.

It is still preferred that citizens call to 911 if possible, as it is faster and more reliable.

Using Text to 911 in an emergency might be helpful for individuals needing emergency assistance who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, or are suffering a medical emergency that has rendered them unable to speak. It can also be used in situations where it is not safe to place a voice call to 911.

However, if citizens can make a voice call to 911 and it is safe to do so, that is the preferred method of reaching Naperville’s PSAP. Voice calls are usually the fastest, most efficient way to reach emergency help.

If there is an emergency and you are unable to make a voice call, follow these steps to text 911:

  • Know your location – Type your exact location as soon as possible.
  • Text what you need – Text what emergency help is needed: police, fire, and/or emergency medical.
  • Be clear – Send a short message without abbreviations, slang, emojis, photos or video attachments.
  • Stay calm – Answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 call taker.

Please remember that texting 911 is for emergencies only. Misuse of the service, similar to making a fake 911 call, is against the law.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if I’m able to text 911?
Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile/Sprint have taken the necessary steps to allow you to text 911 from your mobile phone. Customers of these carriers, whose calls are being routed to Naperville’s Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), can use the feature.

How will I know if 911 received my text?
A 911 dispatcher will reply to your text when it is received. If Text to 911 is not available for any reason, you should receive an automatic “bounce-back” message from your wireless carrier stating that Text to 911 is not available and advising you to make a voice call to 911.

Do I need to have a texting plan to send a text message to 911?
Yes. While all wireless phones have the capability to dial 911 regardless of whether that phone is active on a network, you can only send a text to 911 if you use a cell phone that has an active texting plan. Your mobile carrier’s regular texting rates will apply.

When should I text 911?
Text to 911 is intended primarily for use in three emergency scenarios:

  1. An individual is deaf, hard-of-hearing, or has a speech disability.
  2. Someone is in a situation where it is not safe to place a voice call to 911.
  3. A medical emergency has rendered the person incapable of speech.

What are the challenges with Text to 911 services?

  • As with all text messages, texts sent to 911 may take longer to receive and respond to than a voice call, do not provide the location of the texter, 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.
  • Pictures or videos cannot be received by 911 at this time.
  • If you include anyone else on your text to 911 it may not be received by the 911 call center.
  • Translation services for Text to 911 are not currently available in Naperville. Please text in English only or make a voice call.

How do I text 911?

  • Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” or “Recipient” field.
  • The first text to 911 should include the location of the emergency and the type of help needed.
  • Push the “Send” button.
  • Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 call taker.
  • Text in simple words – no abbreviations, slang or emojis.
  • Keep text messages short.

If I send a text to 911, will the 911 center automatically know my location?
No. Texting 911 is different than making a voice call. When you call 911 from a mobile phone, the call center will usually receive your phone number and approximate location automatically. But if you text 911, the call taker may not receive your phone number or location. So, regardless if you text or call 911, it’s best practice to provide a correct address or location as quickly as possible.

Can I send the 911 operator a photo or video?
No. At this time, Naperville's 911 call center is not equipped to accept photos or videos attached to a text message. In addition, you shouldn’t try to send emojis to 911.

Can I try to send a text to 911 to see if Text to 911 works from my phone?
No. Calling 911 when there is no emergency is against the law. The same applies to texting 911. Don’t “test” to see if it works. You could tie up resources and prevent someone from receiving the help they need.