The text-to-911 service allows residents who are deaf, hard of hearing or those who are unable to speak or that may be in a situation where it is unsafe for them to speak, a way to contact 911 to request emergency services from police, fire or emergency medical services. 

The most important thing to know is that texting provides very limited location information, so the location and type of emergency needs to be sent in the first text to 911 telecommunicators.

As part of a larger Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) project, Virginia Beach is one of the first cities in Hampton Roads to offer the text-to-911 service.

Tips & Suggestions

Texting should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire or emergency medical services. Non-emergency issues should still be communicated by calling the non-emergency number, 757-385-5000.

  • ​​​Calling 911 is quicker, more efficient and preferred. Texting 911 should be reserved for those who are deaf, hard of hearing, unable to speak and those who are in a situation where speaking is unsafe.
  • Provide the location and nature of the emergency in the first text. This will enable help to be dispatched as quickly as possible.
  • Do not use slang, text speak, emoticons or abbreviations. This will ensure clear and concise information is relayed to call takers.
  • As with all text messages, 911 messages can take longer to receive, can be received out of order, or may not be received at all.
  • Service can be used by any text-capable cellular device and does not require a smartphone.
  • Texts sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages.
  • A text or data plan is required to text 911 and costs may be incurred depending on an individual’s contract with their provider.
  • Text messaging apps that only support texting with other app users or texting via social media will not work with the service, only standard SMS texts.​
  • Text-to-911 is not available if you are roaming.
  • If texting to 911 is not available or is temporarily unavailable, you will receive a bounce-back message indicating that texting 911 is not available and to place a voice call to 911.
  • Photos and videos cannot be sent to 911 at this time.
  • Texts to 911 cannot include more than one person – do not send your emergency text to anyone other than 911.
  • Remember “Do NOT text and drive!”​​​