Bell County's 911 Communications Center will begin accepting emergency text messages Sunday. That's great news and a sign that emergency services are adapting to protect and save lives, but there are rules and guidelines that you'll need to be aware of in case you ever need to use this service.

The first thing you should know is that the Text to 911 program is for emergency use only, just like traditional dial-in 911. In fact, it's primarily for:

  • People who are speech or hearing impaired
  • People unable to call 911 due to a medical emergency that renders them unable to speak or hear
  • People who find themselves in a home invasion, abduction, or other situation in which speaking might give away their hiding location

To use the service, you'll need to enter the numbers "911" into the "To" field in your texting program. The first text message should be brief and contain your location and the type of help you need.  You should type in complete, brief, and concise sentences with no acronyms or abbreviations so that emergency service personnel can clearly understand your message. Once you've composed your text, hit "Send" and be prepared to answer follow-up questions via text.

You should only text 911 if calling is not an option. Also be aware that texting is not always instantaneous, so it may take longer than you expect for your message to make it through and help to be dispatched. It's important that your text contain your location, as emergency services will not always receive location information from your device automatically.

Do not send video or special characters! Just plain text.

We hope you never find yourself in a situation in which you need to use this service, but hopefully this information will be helpful and save your life or someone else's if you do.

Pass it on to the people you care about.