FCC wants to let Americans send a text to 911 in case of an emergency

Kids these days can send out a text message without even taking their mobile phone out of their pocket. They’ve invested the time and effort at memorizing the keys, so why not let them, along with everyone else in America, be able to contact 911 with a simple SMS? That’s exactly what the FCC is trying to make happen according to Wired.

“The technological limitations of 9-1-1 can have tragic, real-world consequences,” the FCC said in a press release. “During the 2007 Virginia Tech campus shooting, students and witnesses desperately tried to send texts to 9-1-1 that local dispatchers never received. If these messages had gone through, first responders may have arrived on the scene faster with firsthand intelligence about the life-threatening situation that was unfolding.”

The last time the FCC did anything related to the emergency services mobile space was in 2001 when they required operators to enable cell tower triangulation. That’s been effective, and with modern devices equipped with GPS, the police, fire department, and ambulances can find you regardless of where you are, accurate within a few meters.

Still … SMSing an emergency, it just sounds a bit too open for abuse. Isn’t the whole point of a 911 call for an operators to calm you down and even offer some practical advice while you wait for help to arrive? What’s a dispatcher going to text you to make you feel alright while you’re watching a loved one in pain? Anyway, the FCC is also looking into allowing sensors to automatically notify 911. Imagine you get in a serious accident, your car can automatically dial for help. Better yet, if your smoke detector goes off, the fire department can be at your place in no time.

What do you think, would you text the police if you could, or would you rather speak to a human?

  • I can imagine a lot of situations in which I would *definitely* want to be able text the police, so I could do it quietly.

    There does, unfortunately, exist the strong possibility of abuse, but you can’t really make anonymous phone calls anymore, so there could be hefty fines for abuse. But then I can imagine the wise guy that bullies someone, steals their phone and starts making 911 calls.

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