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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Text to '9-1-1' is now available in San Diego County

Remember: Call if you can, Text ONLY if you can't.
Credit: San Diego County Sheriff's Dept.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego County residents can now text to 9-1-1 in an emergency if you can't call. This includes the Sheriff's Department and all police and fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agencies. 

Authorities still advise calling, which is still considered the fastest way to reach 9-1-1.

How does Text to 9-1-1 work?

  • Enter the numbers 911 in the "To" field
  • Give the location and nature of your emergency
  • Send the text message
  • Respond to dispatcher questions and follow instructions

Situations when texting may be the better option:

  • You're deaf, hard of hearing, non-verbal or have difficulty speaking 
  • You're in a situation where it's not safe to call 9-1-1 for help
  • You're having a medical emergency and cannot speak on the phone 

Data and message rates may apply. Authorities said, do not use emojis, abbreviations and acronyms. Photos and videos cannot be sent to 9-1-1. Currently, the service is only available in English. Messages sent to 9-1-1 cannot include other people. 

Similar to 9-1-1 calls, Text to 9-1-1 is for emergencies only. Intentional misuse of the system is a crime and is a punishable offense, authorities said. If you accidentally sent a message, send a reply clarifying there is no emergency. Cell phone reception varies by location. If Text to 9-1-1 is not available, you will receive a bounce-back message asking you to call 9-1-1. 

Remember: Call if you can, Text ONLY if you can't. 

You can watch an instructional video and public safety message here

RELATED: When a San Diego Sheriff's helicopter is looking for someone in your area, can you hear what they're saying?