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SAN DIEGO — San Diegans can now send emergency text messages to 911 if calling for help isn’t an option.

The sheriff’s department said calling 911 is still the fastest way to reach first responders. If you can’t make a call, you can text 911 to reach police and fire rescue anywhere in the county.

Authorities listed several situations in which text to 911 would be helpful, including if you’re hard of hearing, non-verbal or have difficulty speaking. It’s also designed for use if you’re in a situation where it’s not safe to call 911 for help, or you’re having a medical emergency and cannot speak on the phone.

Send a text to dispatch by entering 911 in the “to” field of a text message. Give the location and nature of your emergency and respond to dispatcher questions and follow instructions.

The department said data and message rates may apply. Don’t use emojis, abbreviations or acronyms and photos and videos cannot be sent to 911. The service is only available in English.

Authorities say just like 911 calls, text to 911 is for emergencies only. Intentional misuse of the system is a crime and is a punishable offense. If you accidentally send a message, send a reply clarifying there is no emergency.