Residents can soon text information to 911 during emergencies
December 17, 2012
NEW — 10 p.m. Dec. 17, 2012
King County is poised to implement text-to-911 capability soon, on the heels of federal rules proposed Monday to require wireless carries and text messaging applications to deliver 911 text messages.
The county is at work on upgrading the countywide Enhanced 911 system to Next Generation 911 technology, and text-to-911 is a major milestone in the transition.
Officials said all 911 centers throughout the county have the equipment necessary to receive text-to-911, and should be ready as soon as wireless carriers launch the service.
“Our 911 dispatchers already have the equipment to receive text messages, but right now wireless carriers don’t provide this service,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. “Once they do, we can provide better emergency response to people with hearing or speech disabilities.”
In the proposed rules from the Federal Communications Commission, officials emphasized for people to make a voice call to 911 whenever possible. But text-to-911 could provide a lifesaving alternative in situations when a person with a hearing or speech disability is unable to make a voice call, or where audible 911 calls could endanger the caller.
AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and two national 9-1-1 associations plan to start major deployments of text-to-911 service in 2013, with nationwide availability by May 15, 2014.