FCC Commits to Speed Text-to-911 Service Rollout
December 7, 2012 9:45 AM
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The FCC warns that people should always make voice calls to 911 when possible
The FCC is pushing to expand next-generation 911 initiatives to cover new communication methods. Currently the only way 911 works is by using voice calls or phone systems for the deaf. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, however, has pledged that the FCC is committed to rolling out text-to-911 service to all Americans.
The FCC wants the new text service to be available to all Americans "as quickly as possible." According to the FCC, the nation's four largest wireless carriers – which include AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile -- have all agreed to accelerate the availability of text-to-911 service.
The major carriers expect widespread deployments in 2013 and have committed to a nationwide availability for the service by May 15, 2014.
Major carriers are already initiating text-to-911 deployments around the country. In these test areas, 911 call centers are prepared to receive text messages calling for help. The service is seen as very important to allow people with hearing or speech disabilities to be able to report accidents and call for help using mobile devices.
The FCC is specific in noting that texts will complement voice calls to 911 services rather than replace voice calling. The FCC letter also notes that people who need 911 assistance should always make voice calls when possible. The major carriers have also promised to provide an automatic "bounce back" text message to notify customers if their attempt to reach 911 using a text message was unsuccessful if the service is available in their area.
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RE: Unneeded complexity?
12/7/2012 3:07:53 PM
Have you ever actually been a 911 operator? If not, you have no idea what it's like.
While it is not difficult to discern what is and is not an emergency, what is often difficult is getting proper information from the people that call. Many people who call our center refuse to tell you anything. If you ask them for a suspect description, all they will respond with it, "Just hurry up and get here!" And then the police drive by the suspect because they don't know who they are looking for.
Also, some people assume that you know exactly where they are, when in reality some cellphones (especially the local cheapos) refuse to get a good GPS location. That or instead of a street name / address, they tell you "Mike's Bar" and then you get the added time of trying to look that up. And getting the telcos involved to track a phone is not a quick process.
While this technology does have an upside with possible pictures of the scene, the lack of a constant connection to the victim presents problems. For example, on the phone 911 operators can hear an incident in the background and can discern a good bit just from that. I personally listened to a man hold a woman hostage. She called, whispered the address, then left the phone lying on the ground. With texts, that could never happen.
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