Beginning May 15, 2014 four cell phone carries will allow users to text 911 for emergencies.
“Access to 911 must catch up with how consumers communicate in the 21st century — and today, we are one step closer towards that vital goal” said FCC chairman Julius Genachowsk.
Once the carriers are set up, local emergency response centers will still need the proper equipment, software and training, so the feature won’t be available instantly. However, eventually the carriers and FCC hope to provide 90% of the population with text-to-911 features. The service will not support third-party texting apps or roaming users.
In the meantime, the carriers will implement a much-needed alert message warning anyone who sends a text to 911 that their message was not received, and that they should make a phone call instead. That auto-reply system will be up and running by June 30, 2013.
This article focuses a lot on keeping up with the transformation of the digital age, but I really think that in some emergency situations, texting is just a smarter choice than using the phone. There are cases where people are unable to speak for fear of their own safety and in that case, texting would be the best route. It will be interesting to see how well this works and if it will be abused at all by sheer laziness.