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Sheriff's Office - Spotlight

Posted on: October 15, 2020

Text to 9-1-1 Now Available in Humboldt County

Text to 9-1-1 now available in Humboldt County

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is pleased to announce the availability of Text to 9-1-1 for all residents in the county’s unincorporated areas.

While calling 9-1-1 during an emergency is still the preferred way to ask for help, Text to 9-1-1 is a new option for contacting law enforcement and is intended to assist those who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired, or anyone who cannot safely call 9-1-1 in a dangerous situation. 

“When it comes to getting emergency assistance, every second counts,” Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said. “Text to 9-1-1 is helping eliminate communication barriers and allowing all residents, regardless of disability, to get the services they need quickly.”

Text to 9-1-1 is intended primarily for use in three emergency scenarios: 

  • When an individual is deaf, hard-of-hearing, or has a speech disability.
  • When someone is in a situation where it is not safe to place a voice call to 9-1-1.
  • When a medical emergency arises that renders the person incapable of speaking.

Texting 9-1-1 should only be used in an emergency. Prank-texters can be identified and prosecuted according to local laws and regulations.

“Text to 9-1-1 ensures that those who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech impairment have equal access to immediate emergency services, and it also benefits the entire community,” Sheriff’s Office Emergency Communications Center Manager Morgan Schlesiger said. “This new technology has already proven critical reliable in emergency situations where an individual is unable to safely make a phone call. We’re here to help, call when you can, text when you can’t.” 

The service is now available in the unincorporated areas of Humboldt County and the cities of Fortuna, Arcata, as well as HSU Police, and the California Highway Patrol. Other local cities will be launching Text to 9-1-1 capabilities soon. 

How do you text to 9-1-1? 

  • Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” or “Recipient” field;
  • The first text to 9-1-1 should be short, include the address and the location of the emergency, and ask for police, fire or ambulance;
  • Push the “Send” button;
  • A dispatcher will respond to the text
  • Answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 dispatcher;
  • Text in simple words – no abbreviations, slang or emojis;
  • Keep text messages short.

Text to 9-1-1 requires a cell phone that has the capability to send text messages, and location services must be enabled. Standard text-messaging rates apply. While currently, the texting service is only available in English, other language solutions are in development and will be implemented as soon as they become available. Similarly, the system cannot receive photos and videos at this time.

Tips on texting 9-1-1 in an emergency:

  • Be sure to include clear information about the location (including city) of the emergency with the type of help needed (police, fire, or medical) in the first text message sent to 911. Emergency personnel cannot always determine your location.
  • Stay on the line until the dispatcher closes the dialog, if it is safe to do so.
  • Text to 9-1-1 cannot be sent to more than one person (group message).  Do not send your emergency text to anyone other than 9-1-1.
  • Text to 9-1-1 is not available if you are roaming.
  • If Text to 9-1-1 is not available in your area, you should receive a message from the wireless carrier stating that Text to 9-1-1 is not available and that you must place a voice or relay call to 9-1-1.
  • If you are deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech disabled, and Text to 9-1-1 is not available, use a TTY or telecommunications relay service, if available.
  • Photos and videos cannot be sent to 9-1-1. 
  • Don’t forget to silence your phone if you don’t want to be heard.
  • Do not text and drive

This new capability was provided to the Sheriff’s Emergency Communications Center at no cost from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. As dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency is still the preferred way to request help, and the public is reminded to “Call if you can. Text if you can’t.”

Learn more about Text to 9-1-1 at

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