As you may have noticed during this week’s outage, you can now text 9-1-1 in Seattle

Buried in the coverage around this week’s 9-1-1 outage in Washington and around the country was the news that King County residents can finally text 9-1-1 in an emergency.

Starting today, 9-1-1 call centers in all King County cities and unincorporated areas can accept texts from those who are unable to call during an emergency. Text-to-9-1-1 is a new service in King County that will to help those who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired, and anyone who might be unsafe if they were to be heard by an intruder or abusive partner.

Officials urge users to “call if you can, text if you can’t!” One reason is 9-1-1 texts are treated “like any other text messages on the network, meaning delays are possible and it may take additional time for a call taker to respond to texts,” the county says.

9-1-1 cannot receive photos or videos and the current system can only respond to texts in English.

The move is around 6 years in the making after the FCC changed rules requiring wireless carriers to deliver emergency 9-1-1 texts in 2012.

Meanwhile, the FCC has opened an investigation into this week’s CenturyLink network failures that led to the more than day long interruption in 9-1-1 service. In Seattle, some activists have said the failures should rekindle the city’s efforts to create a municipal broadband service.


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