All four major US wireless carriers are slowly starting to flip the switch on text-to-911 in select areas, giving customers the choice of texting the emergency number for help when speaking aloud isn't an option. At least for right now, the list of cities where the new measure has been implemented remains incredibly sparse. But the FCC wants to see all carriers offer broad support by the end of 2014, so we expect to see many more counties and eventually entire states join in as the year progresses. Supporting text-to-911 isn't exactly an easy to-do; in most cases 911 authorities must turn to telecom companies for help building the technology necessary to deploy the feature.

For now, the public is still being urged to dial 911 whenever possible. Authorities can't track you as easily via SMS, so you'll need to provide your physical location when sending off an urgent message. But if you're caught in a dire situation where placing a phone call could legitimately put your life at risk, it's good to know the option's there — or will be soon. Texting for help also stands to benefit the deaf and may improve your odds of getting through in remote areas where a voice call could drop due to poor reception.