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Texting the Emergency Services Around The World

Email, social media and SMS have overtaken voice calls as the preferred way of talking to friends, family and businesses.

But there is no faster or more efficient, cost-effective way to touch base than via SMS.

Due to the urgent nature of SMS, it is an excellent way for people to communicate with emergency services, including Ambulance, Police, Fire Brigade, and State Emergency Services.

Can I send an SMS to emergency services?

Text messaging for emergency services is available in many nations worldwide in one way or another.

It is common for nations to offer texting services to the non-verbal and hard-of-hearing population that needs to contact emergency services.

Let’s break down where you can text emergency services in different areas worldwide to get the complete picture.

Texting 911 in the USA

In the USA, it was mandated in 2017 that all wireless carriers must provide an option for texting the American emergency number 911.

Texting the emergency services can be vital in some situations when calling may be unsafe (for example, domestic violence, active burglary, or hostage situation). Also, texting the emergency services can show accurate GPS data.

Since 2014 over 1,000 emergency call centres have integrated the ability to text 911.

As of May 2020, the only states you cannot text 911 are Alaska, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and South Dakota.

If you send an SMS to 911 in an unsupported area, you will receive a bounce-back message to alert you the message has not gone through.

Texting 000 in Australia

Triple zero is the emergency number in Australia to alert the police, firefighters or ambulance. In Australia, 80% of calls to triple-0 are now made from mobile phones.

At this point, contacting 000 is not possible by SMS. But there is a system in place for people with a hearing or speech impairment to contact the emergency services directly through a teletypewriter or a textphone.

According to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, expanding the emergency services contact system to include SMS as a form of communication is the way forward.

SMS will provide increased public safety and improved response times and will follow the changing expectations within the Australian population.

To achieve this, however, it will involve a significant investment on the part of Telstra in advanced infrastructure and employee training.

Texting 999 in the UK

In the UK, emergency SMS has been in place since 2009 and was initially implemented for individuals with a hearing or speech impairment.

To text 999 in the UK, you must register with the emergency SMS beforehand and follow the instructions.

For more information on sending SMS messages to 999, visit Relay UK.

Texting 112 in Europe

In Europe, it is not possible to text 112. All calls from mobile phones to 112 are routed to the national emergency call centre in the Netherlands.

But there is a solution for the non-verbal and hard-of-hearing population that need to contact emergency services.

Using the Tolkcontact app, an individual can converse with the emergency services over text, voice or video.

Tolkcontact is the only organisation that provides the service to text 112. You can request the software on Tolkcontact’s website if you require the app.

Wrap up

Long story short, only the UK and the US allow the general public to text emergency services.

The Emergency+ app is fantastic and another voice-only option to contact emergency services, but we are passionate believers and advocates that SMS should also be an option.

For our Aussie readers, check out these texting triple zero stats courtesy of the Australian communications and media authority.

acma emergency services stats

SMS with ClickSend

Here at ClickSend, as experts in the industry offering bulk SMS, we will be watching what happens with SMS for emergency services in Australia with great interest.

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