By May 15th, 2014, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile have all agreed to support a nationwide “text-to-911” service for its consumers. Currently, texting this emergency number is not a viable option, only phone calls are accepted. In 2010, a “next generation 9-1-1” initiative was started in an attempt to modernize emergency communication. Under the new set of plans, those in need of emergency assistance would be able to not just make phone calls to 911, but would also be able to use text, video, and phone messaging. Phone companies are going about developing this new infrastructure differently; for example, if someone sent a 911 text, one might receive an automatic “bounce back” text message if it was not successfully sent. The “next gen” commission has had difficulties getting all of the major phone companies to cooperate with each other to start this service. Even once it is formally introduced, it will take effort to ensure that it is a quality service that can provide good service for all Americans. The commission plans to monitor the phone companies in this respect in order to help out consumers.
To me, this seems like a logical step forward. Although in most situations, a phone call will suffice in an emergency, but emergencies are not “most situations”. Many people are familiar with texting, and this could be a helpful way for people to communicate. Also, certain disabled persons might have difficulty communicating over the phone, but if they could send a video or photo, this might help the authorities. We are communicating differently than we used to, so it makes sense that our emergency services should be updated.
Although no services had been released yet, the agreement signed between the phone carriers is a key first step to keeping Americans safer in emergency situations.