Yes, you can call 911 from a cell phone, however the 911 operator will not immediately know your location as they would if you called from a landline phone. When calling from a cell phone, be prepared to give the 911 operator your address, city, and county.

If you are near the border of two counties or cities, the cell tower may connect you to the incorrect 911 communications center. If this happens, the telecommunicator will route you to the correct 911 center after confirming your address.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) law requires wireless service providers to connect calls to 911, even if the caller does not subscribe to the provider’s service. FCC law also requires wireless services to provide a caller’s phone number and location to 911 communications centers. The location provided must be accurate within a range of 50 to 300 meters depending on available location technology.

Yes, however texting should only be used if you are not able to call 911. New Hanover County’s Public Safety Communications Center is able to respond to text messages sent to 911, however this service is not available in all areas of North Carolina or the United States.

If you must text 911:

  1. Enter “9-1-1″ in the “To” field. Do not include additional phone numbers in your emergency text as the text-to-911 service does not support multiple recipients.
  2. Send the location and brief description of the emergency, with the type of help needed, in the body of the text.
  3. Be prepared to answer additional questions from the 911 operator.
  4. Use simple words.
  5. Do not use abbreviations.
  6. Keep text messages brief and concise.

Keep in mind that 911 text messages can take longer to receive, may be sent out of order, or may not connect with the 911 center depending on your cell phone’s signal. If text-to-911 is not supported in your area, or is temporarily unavailable, you will receive a message indicating you need to call or use a telecommunications relay service to reach 911.

Additional things to keep in mind if you must text 911:

  • A text or data plan is required to send a text to 911
  • Text-to-911 is not available if you are roaming
  • Photos and videos cannot be sent via text to 911 at this time

For more information and to check the availability of text-to-911 in other areas, visit the FCC’s website.

Yes, you can call 911 from a VoIP phone. However, because of the way VoIP phones operate through internet connections, 911 operators may not be able to automatically determine the location where you are calling from, or your phone number to call back in case you are disconnected. If using a VoIP phone, it is important to keep your physical address updated with your VoIP service provider to ensure emergency services can be quickly dispatched to your location. Keep in mind that you may need to confirm your accurate physical address and phone number with the operator if you call 911 from a VoIP phone.

If you are confined to a bed, immobilized by illness, on oxygen, or have other special needs that would be helpful for emergency responders to know, please submit a Computer Aid Dispatch (CAD) Information form to the 911 Communications Center. The information will be added to your location in the Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, and will be displayed automatically when 911 is called from your location.

Please fax forms to (910) 798-6925 or mail to:
New Hanover County 911 Communications
230 Government Center Dr., Suite 185
Wilmington, NC 28403

Additionally, you are encouraged to sign up for the Special Needs Registry in case an emergency or disaster affects our area.

If you accidentally dial 911, it is important that you stay on the line to let the operator know there is no emergency. If someone accidentally dials 911 and hangs up, or if 911 is accidentally dialed and the line is left open, it is considered an abandoned call. When an abandoned call is received, the 911 operator will immediately try to call back to verify whether or not there is an emergency. If the call is not answered or the line is busy, a law enforcement officer will be dispatched to the location were the call originated to attempt to contact the caller.

Requests for audio recordings or transcripts from 911 calls must be placed in person at the 911 Communications office, located at 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 185. Requests are accepted Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5p.m. Visit the 911 Records Request page for more details.

911 Communications: 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 185 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-452-6120 • Fax 910-798-6925
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