It almost seems odd that this hasn’t been done before but we have news today that Verizon will soon be offering a feature enabling users to text the emergency services. It’s hoped the ‘text to 911’ feature, that will put people in touch with a 911 operator, will be rolled out within the next 12 months and this certainly sounds as though it could be invaluable to many people in a time of crisis.
‘Text to 911’ could be of vital assistance to those that are hearing or speech impaired and of course there will always be occasions when it’s simply too dangerous for a person to make a voice call for fear of being heard. Verizon hopes to start the rollout at the beginning of 2013, first in metropolitan areas and then nationwide. The FCC has been pushing this idea for some years and although it has been a long wait it’s good to see that Verizon has come up with the goods.
Network World, sourced from Bloomberg, gives a great example of where this could have been instrumental in saving lives by referring to the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007. Many students and witnesses tried to send 911 texts rather than attempt voice calls during the incident, in which 32 were tragically killed and another 17 injured. The need for a text to 911 function was highlighted and following this in 2011 a multi-tiered plan to upgrade 911 centers, so that operators could receive texts and photos as well as calls, was announced by the FCC.
When considering that 70% of 911 calls are now made from mobile phones it makes sense that 911 centers should be able to handle texts, photos and maybe one day even video streaming. It’s a huge overhaul to the system to upgrade centers as necessary and Verizon’s leading role with SMS-to-911 is a valuable contribution.
Verizon Wireless VP Marjorie Tsu said in a statement, “Our company is continuing its long-standing commitment to address the needs of public safety and our customers by offering another way to get help in an emergency by using wireless technology.” What are your thoughts about the Verizon implementation of ‘text to 911?’