Feature Article

May 09, 2014

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Planning to Offer Text-to-911 Feature

It's rare to see the major players in the mobile phone industry playing nice and offering the same feature, but there could hardly be a nobler purpose for the cooperation. Starting on May 15, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon plan on uniformly supporting a new emergency service fitting for the modern mobile age – text-to-911.

So what exactly is text-to-911, besides the obvious? Exactly like it says on the tin, test-to-911 works by simply allowing users to send a text message addressed to the number 911 in order to receive emergency services for situations where a user might not be able to speak or otherwise make a phone call. For example, some threatening situations make it dangerous to speak out loud, and many younger members of society are simply more comfortable texting than dialing a phone.

The entire service is SMS based, so the user will receive notifications from emergency call centers notifying them when help is on the way, or if the responders need to ask follow-up questions. Users will also need to add their exact location to the body of the text, due to the fact that location services cannot be accessed through an SMS message.

However, the service is not without its limitations. For example, only a select number of emergency contact centers will actually support the service. Thankfully, the FCC has provided this list of which counties will support the service come May 15. If the local call center is unequipped for text-to-911, then the user will receive a bounce-back notification as well.

The previously mentioned lack of location services is also one advantage that a traditional emergency phone call has from a mobile device, since operators will be able to quickly determine where the call is coming from. Emergency texts are also not going to be getting any preferential priority over standard texts, so a clogged network could delay delivery. Overall it appears that a traditional 911 phone call will still be the way to go, but in the situations where a phone call is impossible this service could still be a lifesaver.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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