9-1-1:  Call If You Can. Text If You Can't.

If you need help in an emergency but can’t speak or safely make a voice call, you can use your mobile phone to send a text message to 9-1-1. Now available statewide in South Dakota, Text-to-9-1-1 is a discreet way to report an emergency, stop a crime or save a life.  

When to Text

Calling 9-1-1 is the best and fastest way to reach help, but sometimes it's not possible to do. Use Text-to-9-1-1 if you are:

how to text

1. Enter the numbers 9-1-1 in the text message "To" field. Do not include the dashes.

2. Text your exact location and type of emergency.

3. Press the "Send" button.

4. Be prepared to answer any questions you receive.

5. Follow instructions if they're given.

what to know

  • Location isn't as accurate with a text as it is with a call, so be sure to text your location or exact address.
  • Whenever possible, call 9-1-1, as Text-to-9-1-1 isn't as efficient and may result in a longer emergency response time. 
  • When texting, avoid abbreviations, pictures, videos, group texts, slang, and emojis, and keep messages to 160 characters or less.
  • A text or data plan is required in order to use Text-to-9-1-1.


  • Contact 9-1-1 if there is a threat to loss of life or property. An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance of emergency medical services, law enforcement or the fire department. 
  • Contact 9-1-1 in an emergency to:
    • Save a life
    • Stop a crime
    • Report a fire
  • In any other situation, please contact your local non-emergency authorities. 


24/7 Helpline


Suicide & Veterans Crisis Hotline

BNSF Railroad


Poison Control


How to Text 9-1-1

Video credits:  Thank you to Derek Ronning and Jena Jones with Clay Area Emergency Services Communication Center for their help in producing these Text-to-9-1-1 example videos!


Yes!  As of May 2021, Text-to-9-1-1 is available statewide across South Dakota. Text-to-9-1-1 is still a relatively new service and is not available everywhere in the United States.  As 9-1-1 call centers update their systems, it’s likely to become available in more places and throughout more providers.

If you’re deaf, hard of hearing, unable to speak or have a speech disability, you should use Text-to-9-1-1. It’s a discreet way to report active shooters, domestic violence, home invasions, human trafficking, suicidal individuals and more.

Yes, a text or data plan is required to send messages. Your mobile carrier’s regular texting rates will apply.

Wait until a dispatcher responds and be ready to answer questions and follow instructions. Do not delete the conversation or turn off your phone.

No, texting is different than making a voice call. When you call 9-1-1 from a mobile phone, the call center can receive your phone number and approximate location automatically. This doesn’t always apply when you text 9-1-1, so it is best to provide a correct address or location as quickly as possible.

No, texting 9-1-1 with a false or nonexistent report is against the law. If you accidentally send a text, send another text or call 9-1-1 to let a dispatcher know that there is no emergency.

No, calling 9-1-1 is the best, most efficient way to contact help. Life-saving cues from background noise and voice inflections can be detected with voice calls. Texting back and forth takes longer than having a conversation.

Use simple words in English, avoid abbreviations, slang, pictures, video and group texts, and keep the messages under 160 characters.

No, at this time, wireless networks in South Dakota and 9-1-1 call centers are not equipped to accept or relay photos or videos attached to a text message.

If you attempt to send a Text-to 9-1-1 where the service isn’t available or your phone is in “roaming” status, you should receive a “bounce back” message informing you the service is unavailable.

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