The FCC recently announced plans to accelerate their “Text-to-911” initiative, which would allow Americans to text 911 to contact emergency services.
The top 4 carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, who together cover 90% of cell users) have committed to release the feature as soon as possible, with limited deployments in 2013 and full capabilities by May 15, 2014. In the interim, users who text 911 will receive a bounce-back message advising them to call 911 instead.
“Access to 911 must catch up with how consumers communicate in the 21st century,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. The chairman announced plans for the initiative in 2007, after students in the Virginia Tech shootings attempted to text 911 for help.
“Over 30 million Americans with speech or hearing disabilities are not able to call 911 during an emergency,” stated the National Emergency Number Association’s spokesperson. “It’s also valuable in hostage and domestic abuse situations.”
The FCC notes that while texting 911 may soon be a reality, it’s always preferable to call when possible.