Snohomish County 911 text service starts Wednesday, with limitations

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Starting Wednesday, you can text to 911 in Snohomish County.

The service is meant only for situations when making a phone call won’t work. Texting 911 has many limitations. It’s slower than a phone call, and location information is not accurate, officials said.

Snohomish County is only the second county in the state to roll out the service. It’s primarily aimed at those with hearing or speech disabilities and for scenarios when making a phone call could be dangerous, such as a domestic-violence kidnapping.

The official 911 message is “Call if you can, text if you can’t.”

People are asked not to send “test” texts to 911. Many such messages have been sent.

The service will continue to evolve with time, said Debbie Grady, the executive director at SNOCOM, the dispatch center based in Mountlake Terrace that serves much of southwest county.

It took months to get it going. After officials saw the first demo of what was possible, SNOCOM supervisor Derek Wilson “immediately said we can and should be doing this,” Grady said Tuesday.

A Snohomish County 911 manager, Laura Caster, has pushed for the service to be made available at the state and regional levels, Grady said.

People who text 911 always should try to include clear information — in their first text — about where they are and also anticipate follow-up questions. They’re also asked to avoid abbreviations and icons, including emotion faces made with symbols. Pictures aren’t accepted at this time. Neither are group texts.

More than 8,700 failed texts to 911 were reported in Washington last year. In addition to Snohomish County, Island, King and Skagit counties are talking about adding the service.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;

What to know

Location information is not accurate.

Texting is not available in all areas.

Texting is not available while phone is on roaming.

A data plan is required to send text messages.

Translation for non-English speakers is not available.

The 911 center cannot control the delivery of the message from the carrier.

Texting is a slower method for reporting emergencies than voice calls, except for those with specific speech and hearing disabilities.

Keep messages brief. Texts are limited to 140 characters.

Do not text and drive.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
Providence nurse’s tearful plea shines light on short-staffed ER

The nurse described an overwhelmed emergency department, as staff have pleaded with the Everett City Council for hazard pay.

FILE - This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. A leading doctor who chairs a World Health Organization expert group described the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease monkeypox in developed countries as "a random event" that might be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent mass events in Europe. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP, File)
Snohomish Health District hiring full-time monkeypox task force

The county is gearing up for more cases. The outbreak will be evaluated weekly to decide if a four-person team is merited.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Body found in impounded car in Lake Stevens

In June, Bothell police impounded the vehicle. Last week, a Lake Stevens business found a body inside.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
California woman dies after motorcycle crash west of Lake Stevens

Kimberly Moore was the passenger on a motorcycle Friday morning. She died the next night. She was 53.

At the Lifelong office in Everett, community members created these wings to honor the victims of the AIDS epidemic. Each feather contains the name of a friend or loved one lost to the disease. (Natalie Kahn / The Herald)
A daily pill could virtually end HIV, if people only knew to get it

Less than a quarter of Washingtonians at highest risk of HIV use PrEP. Why so low? “Stigma,” an Everett nurse practitioner said.

A view of the proposed alternative station location to Everett Station located east of the current BNSF rail tracks in downtown. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could light rail station under Pacific Avenue and over railroad work?

A group representing people around Everett Station wants Sound Transit to study the idea.

State Representative Robert Sutherland, left, gives a thumbs-up to passing drivers as he and a few volunteers wave flags and campaign signs along the side of State Route 9 on July 22, in Lake Stevens. Sam Low, right, talks with seniors on July 20 in Lake Stevens. (Sutherland photo by Ryan Berry / The Herald, Low photo by Kevin Clark / The Herald)
In GOP battle of Sutherland vs. Low, Democrats may tip the scale

The state lawmaker and Snohomish County council member are vying for a House seat. Democrats make up roughly 40% of the vote.

Food forum
Chocolate peanut butter Incredibles

These chocolate peanut butter bars are, as the name suggests, incredible.

SnoTown Brewing’s Frank Sandoval in 2019. (Aaron Swaney)
SnoTown Brewery owner charged with child molestation

Frank Sandoval conceded his conduct with a girl at his brewery was inappropriate, but he denied touching her sexually, charges say.

Most Read