Can You Text 911?
Unless you live in a handful of places around the country, including Waterloo, Iowa, Marion County, Fl., and Durham, N.C., you can't text the police, at least not yet. Emergency response centers in those locations recently integrated texting capabilities for certain mobile networks in order to cater to the younger demographic and the hearing impaired.
The service works much the same as dialing 911: Simply describe your emergency and text it to 911, and police or fire departments will respond accordingly.
For folks outside the limited testing areas, the technology is probably coming soon. Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a plan to overhaul the emergency call system in order to bring it up to speed with modern communications. Called Next Generation 911 (NG911), the new emergency line will accept texts, photos and videos, and will be able to accurately locate cellphones using GPS.
According to Mashable, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski began working on the plan last year, catalyzed by a horrific incident two years prior: During the Virginia Tech campus shootings in 2007, trapped students were unable to text 911. Even if they had been able to, emergency response centers are currently unable to pinpoint the exact locations of mobile devices.
"The shift to NG911 can't be about if, but about when and how," Genachowski told the press.
The commission will vote on the NG911 proposal which outlines its goals, technical details and a funding plan next month. It's likely to pass, at which point the FCC will seek government approval, and then will start physically replacing the equipment at call centers throughout the country.
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