Los Angeles County residents now have the option to send a text to 911 in an emergency.
The Text-to-911 system went into effect Friday in cities throughout L.A. County, including Long Beach and Glendale, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said in a news release.
However, Text-to-911 is not intended to replace regular 911 calls. It’s meant for those who are deaf, hearing-impaired or unable to safely make a voice call.
“Phone communication is still the primary way we want you to communicate because it’s more reliable,” Glendale Police Department spokesman Daniel Suttles told the Los Angeles Times.
There are some other rules for its use.
The service requires a text or data plan and is not available when roaming, according to Federal Communications Commission guidelines. The 911 center currently only accepts texts in English, and asks users not to include abbreviations or emojis. Photos and videos also cannot be received by the 911 center.
The Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s department told NBC Los Angeles that Text-to-911 has not been implemented yet in that area.
The FCC also came up with the slogan, “Call if you can – text if you can’t,” as the technology continues to grow in popularity across the country.
The FCC says it encourages U.S. call centers to implement text-to-911 programs, but it is not mandated, and is only offered in certain locations. FCC rules do, however, require all carriers to deliver a “bounce-back” message to the sender if the 911 text fails, advising that the user contacts emergency services using other means.
A registry is available on the FCC website listing all departments that offer the service. As of Friday, more than 170 departments in California offer Text-to-911 – many of them California Highway Patrol offices.