If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are unable to call 911, a new initiative will allow folks in the U.S. to text instead. The nationwide service was first proposed back in 2012, and now all four major U.S. carriers—AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile—have joined together for the betterment of U.S. cellular customers. In an emergency, you can simply text 911 with your situation and location—all without speaking directly to an operator. Respondents won’t be able to triangulate your location based on the text alone—not like if you called—so you have to provide a physical address.
Per the FCC’s website (as of May 9), the emergency texting service is only live in certain states and counties, including Colorado, Maryland, Ohio and Montana, among others; the service is expected to cover more areas as the year goes on, with up to 90-percent coverage by the end of 2014. If your area isn’t on the deployment list now, chances are it will be very soon. Verizon is the most prominent serving carriers at the moment, though the other three big U.S. carriers are expected to ramp up coverage starting today.
In addition to simply sending 911 worded messages, the service also allows for photos and video, giving responders a better handle on the situation. If you don’t have a physical address, a picture with a recognizable landmark might do the trick; the media could also serve as evidence. The new initiative is a great way to get in touch with emergency services when you’re unable to call—just don’t go around abusing it.