If you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re unable to call 911, the Federal Communications Commission wants to make sure you can at least send emergency texts. A new proposal would require all message providers to support texts sent to emergency response by the end of 2014. All four big U.S. carriers already committed to the cause in 2012, with an anticipated rollout by May 15 of this year; support has been available in some select areas, The Verge noted, with Verizon out front in deployment.
While carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint have already committed to supporting the service, smaller carriers are apparently falling behind. Once text-to-911 does become widespread, anyone with a device possessing texting capabilities will have the ability to message the nearest emergency call center at their discretion. With the FCC’s proposal being made, the subject is now open for public comment. On that note, the service would certainly be helpful for those with hearing and speech impediments, but there’s always the possibility of someone abusing the system.
The onus is currently on carriers to support 911 texts by the end of this year, but call centers will also need to make adjustments in order for the system to work. Messages can easily be missed or forgotten, so something will need to be devised in order for there to be value. The FCC said the proposal is in response to cell phone owner reliance on text messaging, which has become the preferred method of communicating among the public. Voice calling to 911 will still be the main focus, but the option to text is expected to be there should you need it by the end of this year.
In addition to wireless providers supporting the initiative, the FCC also called on all “interconnected” text providers to work with public safety to develop a similar text-to-911 method.