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911 is a free, universal emergency number in the USA and Canada. It connects you to trained dispatchers who can quickly send the appropriate emergency responders. While it offers an easy-to-remember number for all emergencies, there’s not been text message support in many regions until now. Google is making RCS-based text-to-911 features available for the lacking locations. Soon, you’ll be able to contact emergency response teams via the Google Messages app.

Emergency communication just got better

Emergency technology company RapidSOS says only 53% of American 911 centers can receive text messages. It’s why they’re collaborating with Google to make text-to-911 features available in more regions. They’ll first start with Google Messages, which is the default messaging app on many Android phones. 

Texting 911 on Google Messages
Image: Irene Okpanachi / Talk Android

Currently, RCS is primarily available on Android devices. Since Apple is also planning its adoption, RCS will soon become a universal messaging standard and we’ll see more text messaging apps supporting such life-saving features.

Already, you can text 911 using the Short Message Service (SMS) protocol. But you won’t get read receipts, and face limitations when typing characters or sending media files, which can add to your anxiety. Because of these issues, rules from the Federal Communications Communication (FCC) state that your wireless carrier or text messaging provider must send you a “bounce-back” message. The message will recommend using another method to contact emergency services, including making a voice call. So, technically, you’re never left in the dark about the status of your messages.

On the other hand, the Rich Communication Services (RCS) protocol now allows you to confirm message delivery, receive replies from emergency responders, and send high-resolution photos and videos. You can also share your precise location, and other critical information. 

What text-to-911 means for you 

Texting 911 with RCS on Google Messages
Image: Google

Google rolling out text-to-911 has killed many birds with one stone. In cases of heart attacks or strokes, timely response is critical. You may not be in a good state to talk on the phone. If you did place a call, and the connection goes bad, you’ll lose your chance to disclose all the important information and may not get the emergency response you need. In hostage or hiding situations where you don’t have the luxury of making a sound, texting is the better alternative. 

Plus, text messages provide a documented record of the conversation, which can be helpful for reference later. It’s also an accessibility feature for the hearing impaired. You’ll be able to confirm that help is on the way without the fuss of speaking to an agent. You can also send an unfiltered view of the emergency scene using images or videos. 

Text To 911 With RCS Is Coming To Google Messages 4

Text-to-911 features are free across every 911 agency. So, you’ll have access to the service without incurring any additional charges beyond your regular texting plan. While it’s still rolling out, you can familiarize yourself with existing RCS features. It’s also advisable to update your Google Messages app, so that you’ll receive the new feature and fix any bugs that could be an obstacle.

Irene is an experienced writer with four years’ experience in the Tech, E-commerce, and Food niches. She currently writes for Talk Android and Android Police, where she geeks out about the latest innovative practices, solutions, and gadgets. When not writing, Irene embraces her inner couch potato, finding joy in gaming, singing, music, and of course, eating.

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