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Mayor Bowser Launches Text to 911 in Washington, DC

Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Residents Urged to Call 911 When They Can, Text 911 When They Can’t

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Bowser launched Text to 911 in Washington, DC, a new service that allows residents to request emergency services through texting. Text to 911 is intended to improve accessibility for residents who are unable to call 911, and the Administration is emphasizing that residents should continue to call 911 when possible. The Mayor was joined at the launch by the Director of the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) Karima Holmes and Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) Chief Gregory Dean.

“Text to 911 gives people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have a speech disability as well as those who could be put in more danger by calling 911 an immediate connection to emergency services,” said Mayor Bowser. “Text to 911 is the latest example of how we are using every resource possible to make Washington, DC safer and stronger for all residents.”

Text to 911 requires a smartphone that is capable of sending text messages and has Location Services enabled. Text messages must be brief, easily understood, and in plain English (no abbreviations, shortcuts, or slang).

Examples of when it would be appropriate to text 911 include:

  • If a person is the victim of a crime and the perpetrator is still in the area, such as an assault, robbery, or a domestic violence incident.
  • When people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have a speech disability need to reach 911.
  • In situations where a person has sustained an injury that prevents him/her from speaking.

During the testing phase of Text to 911, OUC worked with Gallaudet University and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to test and enhance services.

“Text to 911 represents another step as our system evolves to Next Generation 911,” said OUC Director Karima Holmes, referring to an effort to modernize 911 systems nationwide. “Washington, DC is on the forefront of offering the best technological solutions, and we are doing so in a way that enhances public safety and, ultimately, residents’ quality of life.”

In Washington, DC, 911 operators answer between 3,500 and 4,200 emergency calls each day, and in just the first half of 2017, OUC has already received 60,000 more 911 calls than this time last year. Since coming into office, the Bowser Administration has made investments in and filled critical vacancies at OUC and FEMS that have allowed the departments to keep up with increased call volumes.

Text to 911 is part of Back to Basics DC, a celebration of the day-to-day work that keeps Washington, DC moving forward. Follow Back to Basics DC on social media using #backtobasicsDC.