Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

Call If You Can, Text If You Can't

Everyone should be able to access emergency services. But historically, accessing emergency services by calling 9-1-1 has been difficult or unsafe for a significant swath of our community. Today, we were able to announce that emergency services will be easier and safer to access for many more people, thanks to the official launch of “Text to 9-1-1” in Portland.

In our current model in Portland, and most cities around the country, contacting a 9-1-1 dispatcher to request medical, fire or police services requires a phone call. People who are deaf or hearing impaired have to use a “Text Telephone Device” (TTD) to request help. These devices might work fine in day-to-day life when time isn’t a matter of life or death, but in an emergency, it’s easy to see how these devices can be cumbersome, inconvenient and life-threatening.

Currently, contacting 9-1-1 without a phone call is impossible for anyone who doesn’t have a TTD device. In some contexts in which people are facing a threat of violence, making a phone call could put them in greater danger.

For example, a person stuck in an abusive and violent relationship might find it difficult to call for help, for fear that their partner would hear the conversation with the dispatcher and hurt them further. Or, a person who wakes up in the middle of the night and hears a home invader might not call for police assistance for fear that the invader might overhear.

For individuals living with mental illness, a conversation on the phone could represent an insurmountable psychological barrier, and a necessary and life-saving phone call might never happen.

The ability to text 9-1-1 dispatchers is an essential and potentially life-saving service for many people in Portland. Today’s launch of Text to 9-1-1 fills an important gap for people who need help from a medical, police, or fire first responder, even if they cannot talk.

It's important to note that people who can make a phone call should call, rather than text, 9-1-1, because a phone call remains a faster way of transmitting information.

Remember, call 9-1-1 to stop a crime in progress, report a fire, or call an ambulance. If the situation is not an emergency, you should call 503-823-3333, which is the non-emergency number for all of Portland and Multnomah County.

You can learn more about the program on Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency's website