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Texting 911 coming to major carriers

Customers of major U.S. wireless carriers should be able to text message 911 by 2014, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

The four largest carriers in the U.S. — AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint — all signed an agreement to make text-to-911 available to customers by May 15, 2014, with service rolled out in some areas in 2013.

The FCC said people who try to text 911 in areas where the service is currently unavailable will receive a bounceback message with instructions to call 911. The bounceback service will be available as early as June 20, 2013, according to the commission.

Certain over-the-top text messaging services, such as Apple's iMessage, will be required to provide the same service.

"Implementing text-to-911 will keep pace with how consumers communicate today and can provide a life-saving alternative in situations where a person with a hearing or speech disability is unable to make a voice call, where voice networks are congested, or where a 911 voice call could endanger the caller," according to the commission.

The FCC emphasized that the text-to-911 option should only be used in situations where the person is unable to make a call at the time of the emergency.

Upgrades to emergency systems have paved the way for a text-to-911 system. Many communications systems have switched only recently from telephone lines to an Internet-based protocol, making the text-to-911 system the FCC has pushed for a possibility.

The upgrades to the current 911 system, which was built in the 1970s, have come as cellphones have become the primary communications device for many people. More than 34 percent of American households are cellphone-only, and 70 percent of all 911 calls nationwide are made from wireless phones.

Your thoughts? Good? bad? 


Asked by LostSoul88 at 12:27 PM on Dec. 14, 2012 in Politics & Current Events

Level 40 (119,496 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (2)
  • In theory, it's a great idea. For people with hearing disabilities who can't get to their TTC or say, someone hiding from an intruder, this would be great. But I think it will cause problems for 911 operators like myself. What exactly do I do with "dud n my hs wid wpn". You know when people are panicked, the message will be like text speak on speed. Also, getting a location will be a feat. Yes, I can track cell phones through gps, but it takes considerably longer than just asking someone. But asking won't be quick, either, as I'll have to wait for a text response.

    Oh, holy shit, my job is about to get 10x harder.

    Answer by DusterMommy at 1:56 PM on Dec. 14, 2012

  • It's a good idea, but I hope they make improvements to texting first. I've had many a text that didn't go through until hours, or even days later, and sometimes my phone will indicate a text was sent when it wasn't. I could see many problems with texts coming in way after the emergency's over and police or fire or ambulance showing up to find no problem. Then you'd have the issue of trying to figure out if someone "pranked" 911 or if the text just didn't go through. You'd have to just hope there's evidence of whatever it was.

    Answer by wendythewriter at 12:46 PM on Dec. 14, 2012