Tennessee has announced an upgrade to its 911 services to comply with FCC (News - Alert) directives.
911 services are an integral part of ensuring public safety, but have suffered from a lack of funding or technological updates; this has changed in recent times with the gradual introduction of text-to-911 services. Text messaging has become quite integral to our society in terms of how we communicate with each other, but has been much more slowly adopted into commercial and other (such as emergency) purposes even though its benefits are difficult to overlook.
The FCC is working towards facilitating widespread availability of text-to-911 services, but so far has only made the functionality a requirement for wireless carriers and text service providers, not states, cities or counties. This order was given in August 2014 and refers to 911 call centers that support text messaging as Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs); all carriers and providers must be able to successfully respond to PSAP requests for text-to-911 services by June 2015 or six months from the date it’s requested, whichever is later.
Tennessee is skipping past the usual county-by-county implementation of these services with a statewide upgrade to next-generation 911 communications (NG911) by 2017, which centrally includes text-to-911. State officials told WMC Action News 5 that this long period leading up to deployment will allow for technological infrastructure implementation and training for telecommunicators on how to properly provide services via text message.
Text-to-911 has two main benefits, the most prominent being increased safety for people in danger; many situations arise where someone would benefit from emergency services yet cannot risk making any sounds or being seen contacting 911. With the ability to text it will be much easier to covertly ask for help, and with other NG911 technologies it will soon be possible for a text message to automatically transmit vital information regarding the phone’s owner such as their address, physical characteristics, health, and even current location. The other opportunity afforded by these services is better accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, who otherwise would have to resort to a TTY or TTY relay service which can be cumbersome and time-consuming.
Who would’ve known something as simple as text messaging could have the ability to help keep people safe? Other states around the country should follow Tennessee’s lead and implement statewide NG911 services in order to serve the public as effectively as possible, since that’s what our tax dollars are supposed to be for.
Edited by Kyle Piscioniere