Call centers lag carriers in launching text-to-911 services
The four largest wireless telephone companies, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, met their voluntarily commitment to support 911 emergency text messages by May 15, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
But that does not mean people today can place a 911 call by sending a text message. That’s because most emergency call centers are not yet equipped to receive the texts. In many instances, text-to-911 awaits upgrades to local 911 centers, coordination among phone companies, equipment vendors and public safety call centers.
In fact, for now said the FCC, callers simply "should not rely on text to reach 911."
The FCC wants all 911 call centers to accept 911 texts as soon as possible, but it is not required. Today, 911 texts are accepted in limited areas in Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.
If a caller attempts to send a text to 911 where the service is not available, he would receive a "bounce-back" message advising him to contact emergency services by another means, such as by making a voice call or using telecommunications relay services.
To help support call centers deploy text to 911 services, the FCC has posted best practices for text message providers and 911 call centers deploying text-to-911.
The webpage has materials from by Vermont, Texas, and other state 911 public safety answering points that have already integrated text-to-911. The website includes links to lessons learned from Vermont’s “highly successful text-to-911 implementation” and informational videos for potential text-to-911.
Other sources of support are also available to help test new 911 features. TeleCommunications Systems Inc., an Annapolis, Md., a provider of secure mobile systems, opened an Interoperability Lab in April to help developers of call-handling systems test new next-generation 911 applications before they are deployed by emergency call centers.
Posted by GCN Staff on May 21, 2014 at 12:41 PM