Thursday, May 15, 2014

Have an emergency? Text 911.

If there's ever a situation where you need to text a 911 operator instead of dialing the number directly, you're in luck. As of today, the country's four big carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, will officially route texts addressed to 911 to your local police.
This is a good thing - with more than 6 billion texts sent every day since 2012, being able to reach the police by typing rather than talking is a logical next step that could make a huge impact for people seeking help. But that doesn't mean you can, or even should, start texting your emergency instead of calling.

The first and most important point to understand is that although these four carriers have now enabled Text to 911 on their end, the have no say over whether your local police station implements it or not. Each emergency call center, or PSAP (public safety answering point), as it's known in the public safety sphere, has to decide how and when to allow Text to 911. Some already have, but others may take longer as they tackle a large set of issues that may include their size and financial resources.
Not only do these PSAPs have to buy or license the right tools to carry on conversations over text, they must also establish protocols for communicating with texters, and then train their dispatchers. All of this can take time, especially in the face of a few hurdles such as judging a message's context, routing issues, and delivery delay issues.

While the agencies involved with the Text to 911 program still urge you to call when you can and save texting as a final resort, there are right times to use it.

For instance, texting 911 gives Americans with speech and hearing impairments direct access to a 911 operator. And texting is practically the mother tongue of today's teens, who might feel more comfortable or more natural drafting an SMS before finding the dial screen.

There are also serious situations in which uttering a word would make the situation even more dangerous.

*Disclaimer: this service is not available everywhere. Consult your local authorities before texting 911.

Source: CNET

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