King County Launches 911 Texting Service
King County Launches 911 Texting Service
Posted on 12/20/2018
Call if you can, text if you can't

Starting December 20, 2018, 911 call centers in all King County cities and unincorporated areas can accept texts from those who are unable to call during an emergency. Text-to-911 is a new service in King County that will to help those who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired, and anyone who might be unsafe if they were to be heard by an intruder or abusive partner.

While texting to 911 is a vital tool that increases accessibility to emergency services, the preferred method for those who can speak is to call.

“Even with texting available, our main message is in an emergency is, ’Call if you can, text if you can’t,’” said Ben Brier, Program Manager for the King County E-911 Program Office.

There are limitation to texting 911. 911 texts are treated like any other text messages
on the network, meaning delays are possible and it may take additional time for a call taker to respond to texts. 911 cannot receive photos or videos. The current system can only respond to texts in English.
If you do need to text 911 in an emergency you can help 911 help you by:

  • Sending the location of the emergency – including city – and the type of emergency help needed – police, fire, or medical – in the first message.
  • Keeping text messages brief and concise.
  • Typing complete with no abbreviations.
  • Staying with your phone and being prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from 911 call takers. 

Text-to-9-1-1 is not yet available statewide. Neighboring Snohomish, Kitsap and
Thurston counties do have text-to-911. Pierce County is expects to go live early next year. If a text is sent to a 911 call center that does not accept texts, wireless carriers will send an alert message warning that the text did not go thru and to make a call instead.

For more information on texting, visit