You’ll soon be able to text 911 via RCS on your Android phone. Here’s how it works

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

It’s a situation no one should ever be in, but in case of an emergency, Google today announced the availability of texting 911 with Rich Communication Services (RCS) in the US. 

The new feature, slated to roll out gradually this winter and made in partnership with emergency technology company RapidSOS, will allow Google Messages users (read: on any Android phone) to text their local emergency call centers via RCS. 

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The communication technology should alleviate some of the pain points of today’s emergency responder call centers, including the inability to support texting and sharing pictures and videos. 

With RCS, users will be able to do the following:

  • Receive read receipts: Confirm when the receiver has read your messages and see typing indicators for when they’re responding.
  • Send high-resolution photos and videos: Share visual information to help depict incidents and locations.
  • Share their precise location through Android Emergency Location Service: For when the user is unaware of where exactly they are.

To Google’s credit, the company says it’ll begin rolling out the feature to US emergency call centers that currently do not support any form of 911 texting. Today, roughly 53% of call centers support basic messaging functionality, though it’s often limited to exchanging texts only — not media files or location data.

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“Our goal is to make RCS the standard for emergency services texting everywhere, and we’re inviting the ecosystem to partner with us to provide reliable emergency messaging for everyone,” said Elmar Weber, GM of Android and Business Communications, in the company’s press release. 

With Apple expected to share more about its plans to adopt RCS during WWDC next week, the timing of today’s Google news feels intentional. Here’s to hoping both companies can collaborate and better distribute such vital features for the benefit of every user.

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