By now, the majority of us are used to the idea of text messaging as a daily routine in our lives. It’s a way to have casual conversations on the side while still performing our day-to-day tasks. But, how would it feel to have texting messaging as a channel of communicating an emergency via 911? Well, it is now, in fact, a reality.
The disappearing landlines and growing popularity of smartphones has led to people beginning to accept the idea of contacting emergency services through texting. Four major US wireless carriers, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, now offer the 911-texting capabilities on Thursday, thanks to the Federal Communications Commission, which is an improvement for emergency response.
The FCC announced that 59 emergency communications centers in 16 states are now using the text service, a small fraction of centers available in the United States. The commission said that the service will become more widely available in time as phone companies provide the service, and emergency centers become modernized to support texts.
The FCC reminds us that calling is still a better form than texting to relay an emergency. Though, they’ve been pushing for an emergency texting service, this has been primarily for the deaf and speech-disabled individuals. Also, major disasters, such as hurricanes, have seen issues with cellular calls while text messaging still functioned properly.
However, there are already a few issues with the service. As of right now, it is only available in select locations, and even though the four carriers support the service, the dispatch stations can choose whether or not to have the gear to receive the messages. Basically, don’t go using text messaging as the primary way to report an emergency, because the message might not even go through.
And then, being a Pittsburgher, I caught word that the first text made in the area was from behind the wheel of a car, which is exactly how you shouldn’t be using the emergency service. So yes, there is definitely some negativity already surrounding the new service.
Officials advise that you should still call before you text an emergency. The texting service should only be used at the time that speaking might be dangerous or for those who lack the ability to hear or speak. Hostage situations would be ideal for emergency text.
Texting also carries the risk of increased activity from pranksters, since texting has become such a popular channel among young persons.
Then there are also the parts of direct communication that are lost in translation through text, such as the communicator’s tone or events that would be happening in the background of the phone call, which can be evidence that would help call centers with an emergency.
Text messaging also has the benefit of providing your location with the message, but call centers can’t directly and immediately pick up other details, such as an address or description of a person or situation.
Until, the texting service works out the bugs, it is recommended that you stick to just making 911 voice calls with your smartphone.