The U.S. and U.K. both seem poised on the brink of allowing people to send text messages to emergency services, instead of dialing 911 (999 in the UK).
This past November, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened the door to people in the United States being able to text message 911 instead of having to call 911.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stated that it “is time to bring 911 into the Digital Age,” adding that it was important to bring emergency services into the 21st century, and that text messaging should be added to emergency services. With nearly 70% of all 911 calls coming from mobile phones, adding text messaging capabilities makes sense, Genachowski said.
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In fact, added Genachowski, having text messaging ability to reach 911 emergency services can sometimes be safer. Genachowski pointed out that students tried to text to 911 during the Virginia Tech shootings back in 2007, presumablly for fear of making noise by calling, however text to 911 did not (and still does not) work.
Across the pond, in the United Kingdom, the ability to text to emergency services (their “999” to our “911”) has been undergoing a trial run for the past year. Now it is being proposed that it be rolled out for the masses. Users will, however, be required to pre-register before being allowed to text to 999. This is in order to prevent prank calls.
During the test of the system, the emergency system operators found that people texted to 999, instead of calling, in emergeny situations where they had poor cell signal.
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