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Text to 9-1-1

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Cellular customers living in or traveling through the Northwest Central Dispatch System (NWCDS) service area may be able to use their mobile phones to send a text message to 911 for emergency help. NWCDS is the first 9-1-1 communications center in Illinois to accept text messages from all four major carriers.

The NWCDS service areas includes Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Mount Prospect, Palatine, Schaumburg, Streamwood, Prospect Heights and Rolling Meadows.

Texting should only be used during an emergency when you are unable to make a voice call to 9-1-1.

How to text 9-1-1 in an emergency:

  • Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” field; Do not include any other recipient.
  • The first text message to 9-1-1 should be brief and contain the location of the
    emergency and type of help needed;
  • Push the “Send” button.
  • Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.
  • Text in simple words – do not use abbreviations.
  • Keep text messages brief and concise.

Below are a few things to know if you need to text 9-1-1:

  • Text location information is not equal to current location technology.
  • As with all text messages, 9-1-1 messages can take longer to receive and can get out of order or may not be received. 
  • Text to 9-1-1 is not available if you are roaming.
  • A text or data plan is required to place a text-to-9-1-1 
  • If texting to 9-1-1 is not available in your area, or is temporarily unavailable, you will receive a message indicating that texting 9-1-1 is not available and to contact 9-1-1 by other means. 
  • Photos and videos cannot be sent to 9-1-1 at this time.
  • Do not text and drive!

Remember, texting should only be used during an emergency when the caller cannot communicate verbally. This includes situations when a crime is in progress; the caller is facing domestic abuse; or the caller is injured and cannot speak. This technology is also especially helpful to those who are hard of hearing, deaf, or speech-impaired.

Even with this advanced capability, the best way to contact 9-1-1 continues to be via voice communications whenever possible.

More information regarding text to 9-1-1 can be found on the National Emergency Number Association website: