Feeds

US text-to-911 emergency SMS to go live by 2014

Top four carriers to start rollout next year

Top three mobile application threats

"Omg hlp nd a dr" may soon become a familiar phrase to emergency operators in the US, thanks to a plan to enable text messaging to the 911 emergency telephone number from anywhere in the country by 2014.

On Thursday, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Julius Genachowski announced that the four major US mobile carriers – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon – have all agreed to begin major deployments of text-to-911 technology in 2013, and to make the service universal by May 15, 2014.

This all may seem old hat to readers across the pond – British telecom regulator Ofcom made emergency SMS service mandatory in 2011 – but here in the US and Canada, good old-fashioned voice dialing remains the only way to contact authorities in a crisis.

A number of government organizations have been working to change that, however, with the Department of Transportation leading the so-called Next Generation 911 (NG911) effort since 2006.

In 2011, the FCC announced a five-step action plan aimed at accelerating nationwide deployment of an NG911 system based on "seamless, end-to-end IP-based communication of emergency-related voice, text, data, photos, and video." Obviously, enabling text-to-911 is but one step in this process.

What's more, text-to-911 isn't meant to replace traditional voice dialing to emergency response centers for most users. According to the FCC, people in emergency situations should always place voice calls to 911 if they can.

The system could be a literal lifesaver for people in situations where speaking aloud could put them in danger, though, or for those with hearing or speech disabilities that make it difficult for them to make voice calls.

Because text-to-911 service will be rolled out in stages, the FCC says the carriers have also committed to implementing a "bounce back" service, which will notify users with an automated SMS message if text-to-911 is not yet available in their area. (Expect some clever hack to work this device into a horror-movie screenplay next year.)

Genachowski said that in the coming week the FCC will also consider steps to accelerate the adoption of text-to-911 by "over-the-top" providers, such as 2go and WhatsApp, which provide mobile text-messaging services that ride on IP data traffic.

"We will also take additional steps in this area next year," Genachowski said, "including closely monitoring carriers' compliance with the commitments they have made today and addressing other aspects of Next Generation 911 such as enabling transmission of photos and videos to 9-1-1 centers."

Those last two capabilities will surely be welcomed by 911 operators, as the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" is likely never truer than during an emergency. On the other hand, once text-to-911 goes live, operators may occasionally have to make do with 140 characters or fewer. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Virgin Media so, so SORRY for turning spam fire-hose on its punters
Hundreds of emails flood inboxes thanks to gaffe
A black box for your SUITCASE: Now your lost luggage can phone home – quite literally
Breakfast in London, lunch in NYC, and your clothes in Peru
AT&T threatens to pull out of FCC wireless auctions over purchase limits
Company wants ability to buy more spectrum space in auction
Turnbull leaves Australia's broadband blackspots in the dark
New Statement of Expectations to NBN Co offers get-out clauses for blackspot builds
Facebook claims 100 MEEELLION active users in India
Who needs China when you've got the next billion in your sights?
Facebook splats in-app chat, whacks brats into crack yakety-yak app
Jibber-jabbering addicts turfed out just as Zuck warned
Google looks to LTE and Wi-Fi to help it lube YouTube tubes
Bandwidth hogger needs tube embiggenment if it's to succeed
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.