Wireless and 911

Your wireless device is a fantastic safety tool that can help you in the direst of circumstances. Knowing how your device works and what is the best way to reach out for help can save your life and/or the lives of others.


The wireless industry and all wireless carriers are dedicated to providing all customers with the most up-to-date technology, which extends even into the arena of E-911. Dialing 911 in emergencies has easily become the universal norm, so it makes sense that we would want to dial 911 on our cell phones, too. However, there are currently some very real differences between calling 911 from a landline and calling from a cell phone. Knowing these differences before an emergency happens will save time and frustration.


Dialing 911 from your cell phone requires the implementation of new technology, which currently exists for landlines, that allows 911 responders to accurately locate you. This requires the establishment of PSAPs (Public Service Answering Point) that contain systems that can accurately pinpoint a caller within a 50-300 meter range.

While all the wireless carriers have diligently worked to comply with the FCC in establishing these PSAPs around the country, some are still not operating fully due to things like inadequate funding. Therefore, until 100 percent of the U.S. is covered, there are some very simple and easy things you need to remember when dialing 911 from your wireless device.

Texting during an Emergency

Most wireless phones today are text messaging-capable and permit the sending of short messages (also known as text messages) between mobile phones, other handheld devices, and even landline telephones.

During an emergency, such as a natural disaster, voice networks can become congested or overloaded with an influx of people trying to call each other. Unfortunately, more often than not this results in people not being able to talk to people they need or want to talk to, such as emergency services or friends and loved ones. In some rare instances this also can result in emergency service personnel not being able to communicate with each other.

Text messages, however, use far less bandwidth than a normal voice call and therefore are more reliable in trying to communicate in these types of circumstances. So, even if a network is over-congested with voice calls, your text message for help will have a much higher likelihood of getting through to the people who can assist you much faster than a phone call. And equally important, by texting during an emergency, you are freeing up the voice lines for emergency officials to use.