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

text to 911 sample

You can now send a text message to 9-1-1 in Fairfax County — and it’s critical to understand how the system works. Voice calls are still the best and preferred method for most people to contact 9-1-1. Remember this important phrase: Call if you can. Text if you can’t.


Primary Uses for Text to 9-1-1

Text to 9-1-1 is intended for specific emergency scenarios:

  • For a person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing or has a speech disability.
  • For someone who is in a situation where it is not safe to place a voice call to 9-1-1.
  • A medical emergency that renders the person incapable of speech.
  • If you are unable to call 9-1-1 due to being in a remote location with limited voice network availability.

Steve Souder, the director of our 9-1-1 center, discusses the primary uses:


Where You Can Use Text to 9-1-1

Text to 9-1-1 is available within:

  • Fairfax County
  • Town of Herndon
  • Town of Vienna
  • Town of Clifton
  • City of Fairfax

If text to 9-1-1 is not available in your area when you send a message, you should receive a message indicating that text to 9-1-1 is not available and to contact 9-1-1 by phone.

Text to 9-1-1 is available in less than 5 percent of the United States. Other jurisdictions in Northern Virginia and Maryland, as well as Washington, D.C., are planning their own launches of text to 9-1-1 in the future.


Wireless Carriers of Text to 9-1-1

At this point, text to 9-1-1 in Fairfax County is provided by the following carriers:

  • Verizon
  • Sprint
  • AT&T
  • T-Mobile


Language Availability

English is the only language available right now for text to-9-1-1.


How to Text 9-1-1
  1. Enter “911” in the “To” or “Recipient” field of your text message (no dashes in 911).
  2. Text in simple words — no photos, videos, abbreviations or slang.
  3. The first text should be short to include the location of the emergency and who you need: police, fire or ambulance.
  4. Be as specific as possible when providing your location. Provide as much of the following information as possible:
    • Exact address to include unit/apartment number and city
    • Business name
    • The names of both streets at the nearest intersection
    • Landmarks
  5. Push the send button.
  6. Answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.

text to 911 sample message


Technical Details

As with all technology, there are some other key details you should know:

  • As with all text messages, 9-1-1 text messages can take longer to receive, may be delivered out of order, or may not be received at all.
  • Text to 9-1-1 is not available if you are in a “roaming” situation.
  • A text or data plan is required to place a text to 9-1-1.
  • Photos and videos cannot be sent to 9-1-1 at this time.
  • Text to 9-1-1 cannot include more than one person. Do not copy your emergency text to anyone other than 9-1-1. Wait until you are safe to notify others of your situation.
  • Prank-texters can be identified and possibly prosecuted according to local laws/regulations.


For more information and additional details, visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/911/text-to-911.htm.

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