Option To Text 911 Now Available in San Diego County


Picture of someone texting.
Image courtesy of San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

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UC San Diego announced on January 20 that students, staff, and faculty living in San Diego County can text 911 in case of emergencies. 

This can be done by entering 911 in the “to” field and sending a text message about the nature of the emergency and current location. Dispatchers will be sent depending on the area where one is texting from — if the text is made from campus, UC police will respond with further questions and instructions.

In an email sent out by the Office of Resource Management and Planning, Vice Chancellor Gary C. Matthews and UCSD Chief of Police David Rose said that while calling is still the quickest way to reach 911, texting may be a better option for those who are hard of hearing, non-verbal, or experience difficulty speaking, in a situation where calling is unsafe, or when there is a medical emergency where one is unable to speak on the phone.

A video released by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department on January 5 elaborated on the service’s limitations. So far, this service is only offered in English. Photos and videos cannot be accepted, and the message cannot contain abbreviations, acronyms, or emojis. Group texts are also not supported.

In 2019, a California law required local dispatch centers across the state to implement a text-to-911 system by January 1, 2021. Known as AB-1168, the law is intended to make contact with emergency services more widely accessible, specifically for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Before the creation of text-to-911, deaf, hard of hearing, and speech-impaired residents in California could only reach 911 through alternative means like a Teletype (TYY) or relay service, making it more difficult and time-consuming to seek emergency assistance.

Other UC campuses have also implemented text-to-911 services, such as UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz.

Since responses over text may be slower, UCSD and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department still encourage the local San Diego community to call 911 first, but provide texting as an alternative if calling is not accessible in an emergency.

Additional information about reporting crimes or emergencies at UCSD can be found on the UCSD Police Department’s website.

Julianna Domingo is the Assistant News Editor for The Triton. You can follow her at @coolyannaa.