With smartphones and other mobile devices gaining such widespread popularity, it was only a matter of time before digital communications came to emergency services.
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) announced on Thursday that AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon (NYSE:VZ), Sprint (NYSE:S) and Deutsche Telekom‘s (PINK:DTEGY) T-Mobile are fast-tracking the implementation of a system that will allow people to send text messages to local 911 operators. The new service will begin appearing next year and is expect to achieve nationwide coverage by 2014, CNET noted.
AT&T and Verizon have already launched regional testing of text-to-911 systems.
Plans to include text messaging in 911 services date back to 2010. The effort to add text messaging capabilities to emergency response services is called “Next Generation 9-1-1.”
During the 2007 shooting massacre at Virginia Tech, two students tried but failed to alert police with text messages. The incident highlighted the need for the 911 system to keep up with changing technology.
Text messaging capabilities for 911 services could also assist hearing or speech impaired people, who cannot use voice services to alert authorities of emergencies or request assistance.