Giving consumers the option of sending a text to 911 for emergency help is an idea that's been floating around for some time now, but it looks like that service will become reality next year. The Federal Communications Commission has announced that AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have all agreed to an initiative that will speed up the availability of text-to-911 services, with "major deployments" kicking off in 2013 and nationwide support coming by May 15, 2014. Testing is already underway on AT&T's network in Tennessee, while Verizon has trials going in North Carolina, Vermont and Virginia.
The four U.S. carriers have also agreed to provide a "bounce back" system for consumers that try to use the text-to-911 service before it's officially available in their area. The automated system will send the person a message that instructs them to contact 911 through a voice call. This functionality is expected to be rolled out by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon by June 30, 2013.
As we've noted before, implementing text-to-911 services make sense on several different levels. Not only is texting becoming the preferred method of communication for many mobile phone users, but having the option of sending a text message to 911 could just be a better choice for certain people, such someone with a disability or anyone that's in a situation that could be made worse by making a voice call. How many of you would prefer to contact 911 using a text message over a voice call once the service is enabled in your area?