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Verizon To Begin Offering "Text To 911" Service 194

Posted by samzenpus
from the alert-the-authorities dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In a move that will likely elicit a 'why didn't they implement that sooner?' response, Verizon in the next 12 months will begin implementing a 'text to 911' feature that, as the name implies, will enable users contact 911 operators via text message to report an emergency. The feature will be particularly helpful for the hearing and/or speech impaired, and for folks who find themselves in dangerous situations where making a voice 911 call isn't advisable. Beginning in early 2013, Verizon will start rolling out the feature in various metropolitan areas before progressing to a nationwide rollout soon thereafter. In many respects, this move has been a long time coming, and something the FCC has been championing for a few years."
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Verizon To Begin Offering "Text To 911" Service

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  • by crow (16139) on Monday May 07, 2012 @11:52AM (#39916103) Homepage Journal

    Now, instead of getting multiple phone calls about a traffic accident, the dispatcher can much more quickly ignore the duplicates.

    This is an ideal way of sending information when you want to report that you saw something that may need their attention, but you personally don't need a response.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @11:58AM (#39916175)

      Now, instead of getting multiple phone calls about a traffic accident, the dispatcher can much more quickly ignore the duplicates.

      This is an ideal way of sending information when you want to report that you saw something that may need their attention, but you personally don't need a response.

      Yep. Now we can have people texting 911 about accidents caused by texting while driving potentially causing more accidents in the process.

      There's an Xzibit reference in there somewhere...

    • by sjbe (173966) on Monday May 07, 2012 @12:00PM (#39916201)

      This is an ideal way of sending information when you want to report that you saw something that may need their attention, but you personally don't need a response.

      Presuming you can get sufficient detail in the message to make it useful. 911 Operators typically ask questions for a reason. I can just see a whole bunch of text like "I saw an accident on I-80" with no further detail in the messages. Then the operator may need to call to find out the details.

      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        This is an ideal way of sending information when you want to report that you saw something that may need their attention, but you personally don't need a response.

        Presuming you can get sufficient detail in the message to make it useful. 911 Operators typically ask questions for a reason. I can just see a whole bunch of text like "I saw an accident on I-80" with no further detail in the messages. Then the operator may need to call to find out the details.

        You mean 911 operators cant find out exactly where your cellphone is and which direction you are traveling any time they want? Even just through getting a text message? But I saw that on CSI like two years ago...

        • by Splab (574204)

          The standard TAP 3.11, does include som information about your whereabouts, including tower(s?) you are talking to and aproximate location, but no GPS or direction.

          Also, in Europe we have a lot of MVNOs (mobile virtual network operator), they are generally somewhere between 5 minutes and 6 hours behind current events depending on their contract with the network provider.

          So unless the police has some backdoor installed in the land of the free, the 911 operator needs to ask some questions :-)

          tl;dr - CSI isn't

        • Yeah, the same CSI that made a Visual Basic interface to track IP addresses which turned out to be "275.3.9.64".

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          You mean 911 operators cant find out exactly where your cellphone is and which direction you are traveling any time they want? Even just through getting a text message? But I saw that on CSI like two years ago...

          That might be the reason why it's taken so long to implement. E911 was mandated after 9/11 which basically means every 911 call gets GPS positioning information. Perhaps 911 texts get the same thing - sending a text via 911 grabs current GPS location and sends it out.

          Heck, anothe reason is SMS is on

          • by Blrfl (46596)

            While I appreciate that September 11 is America's new national pastime, the seeds for E911 were planted long before 2001. I was working on systems to locate phones in 1994.

            • by tinkerton (199273)

              On this side of the ocean 911 operators drive porsches.

      • Presuming you can get sufficient detail in the message to make it useful. 911 Operators typically ask questions for a reason. I can just see a whole bunch of text like "I saw an accident on I-80" with no further detail in the messages. Then the operator may need to call to find out the details.

        Don't you mean "I saw an accident on I-8*CRASH*^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hcaused a second accident on I-80 by texting and driving"?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm waiting to hear about the new type of multi-accident pile-up.
      911, what's your emergency?
      I was texting 911 about an accident when I had an accident.
      911, what's your emergency?
      I was texting 911 about an accident caused by the guy texting 911 about an accident when I had an accident.
      911, what's your emergency?
      I was texting 911 about an accident caused by the guy texting 911 about an accident caused by the guy texting 911 about an accident when I had an accident.

    • Now, instead of getting multiple phone calls about a traffic accident, the dispatcher can much more quickly ignore the duplicates.

      The average person talks faster than he or she can read. What's more... most of the time when I call a traffic accident in, it goes something like this:
      "911 dispatch, what's your emergency?"
      "Yeah, got a car accident at highway 35 just south of the 17th avenue offramp."
      "Yup, we know about it, Thanks."
      *click*
      Total call time: 15 seconds.

      And my eyes don't leave the road while I'm making that call. On the other hand, having a bunch of people texting while on top of an accident scene is a recipe for disaste

      • The average person talks faster than he or she can read.

        Citation needed.
        I ,for one, read much faster that I can talk.

      • The average person talks faster than he or she can read.

        You're comparing an output mechanism with an input one.

        And I'm not sure it's true, at least for people who aren't horse racing commentators or auctioneers. It's certainly the case that most people can read a transcript of a lecture or interview in less time than it takes to listen to it.

      • It's just an option. If speaking on the phone is easier in your current situation, then that's what you do.

        If the average person really does speak faster than they read, that's pretty sad. If I spoke as fast as I read, I'd sound like an auctioneer.

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Now, instead of getting multiple phone calls about a traffic accident, the dispatcher can much more quickly ignore the duplicates.

      You may want to look into emergency dispatch systems before commenting. First it is not a dispatcher that filters duplicate calls it is the 911 operators. Second, in large systems there can be a large number of 911 operators. The way most systems work is that when a 911 operator takes a call she posts a note on the system for all other operators to see. When a duplicate call comes in it is identified by checking the posted list. It does not matter if the call comes in by test or voive the list still needs t

      • by jonbryce (703250)

        Text to 911 could be useful in the following scenarios

        You have a medical emergency that leaves you unable to speak or hear things
        You are in a location where it is too noisy to hear a phone conversation
        You have been kidnapped etc, and want to call for help without letting your attacker know

  • MMS along with SMS? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crow (16139) on Monday May 07, 2012 @11:53AM (#39916129) Homepage Journal

    They really need to support sending photos.

    • Email > MMS.
      I've yet to use MMS (AFAIK, my current cell phone doesn't support them out-of-the-box, and I never bothered configuring them since I don't know anyone who uses them).

      Email on the other hand, is pretty dominant on smartphones nowadays.

      • any camera phone for the last 6-8 years has supported MMS, you probably used it a dozen times with out knowing about...

        anyone ever txt you a photo (hint:MMS)
        ever part of a group txt from someone with a iPhone? (hint:MMS)
        ever send a picture? yup MMS
        a lot of older dumb phones actually sent anything over 160 characters as MMS

        it all set-up by default on phones...

    • Agreed.

      "accident on 405n @ wilmington"
      "pics or it didn't happen."

  • by 0racle (667029) on Monday May 07, 2012 @11:56AM (#39916159)
    Its a good thing SMS is guaranteed realtime with guaranteed delivery. I've never had a text show up hours after it was sent while I'm now standing next to the person who sent it. Yep, its a beautiful service, one I'm happy to put my life in the care of.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "What is your OMG?"

  • by Githaron (2462596) on Monday May 07, 2012 @12:00PM (#39916203)
    Why hasn't someone created 911 video chat for mobile phones yet. Such a feature could be life saving. Rather than someone having to explain how bad the wounds are and what is happening, they can show the dispatcher and EMTs. The dispatcher can give better advice to the victim or victim's friend and even have quick videos on how to complete the action. Meanwhile, the EMTs can use the video feed to better figure out the best course of action before they get on site. If nothing else, a face is probably more reassuring than just a voice when you have an emergency.
    • by Krischi (61667)

      That will be part of next-generation 9-1-1 services. Check out the NENA i3 specification and standards. But the rollout of next generation 9-1-1 is still 5-10 years in the future at a minimum.

    • Why hasn't someone created 911 video chat for mobile phones yet.

      1. On freeways/highways during some traffic accidents, you can have more than 30 to 90 people calling 911 to report the same exact accident, thus overwhelming the 911 call center and sometimes the local cell towers also. Having some of those people place video calls would only compound this issue.
      2. Phone cameras are front-facing and back-facing, and for most users that can actually do video chatting, it's far from having become second nature to them yet. For instance, there needs to be plenty of light, the

      • by Githaron (2462596)

        1. On freeways/highways during some traffic accidents, you can have more than 30 to 90 people calling 911 to report the same exact accident, thus overwhelming the 911 call center and sometimes the local cell towers also. Having some of those people place video calls would only compound this issue.

        I am not sure why anyone would be streaming video to emergency services for a accident unless they were with someone who was hurt by the accident. That said, I guess there wouldn't be anything stopping that from happening.

        2. Phone cameras are front-facing and back-facing, and for most users that can actually do video chatting, it's far from having become second nature to them yet. For instance, there needs to be plenty of light, the phone camera can't be moving too quickly, and the user needs to know where to point which end of the phone towards, while still being able to talk to it.

        I doubt those people would even use the feature.

        3. Bandwidth issues (not everyone has 4G service/high-speed wifi service, or even a mobile data service, and if even they did, it doesn't work everywhere the same yet)

        While there could be bandwidth issues, I would assume the app would monitor the connection and fall back to voice with the option of sending pictures if the network is not fast enough.

        4. Hardware issues (even among smartphones that can do video calling over 4G, all those 4G phones are not created equal. Some of those phones are vastly underpowered and will crash when doing video-calling. And the user may even have to pull out the battery and reboot their phone, before they can even make a normal phone call after that.)

        It is better to have it for those that can use it than to

  • by Scareduck (177470) on Monday May 07, 2012 @12:02PM (#39916233) Homepage Journal

    As suggested by a Facebook friend, Jordan Elliot:

    "OMG! thrs lik sum GUY ty 2 brake into my house! DAFUQ!?!? LOL PLS HLP!!!"

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      As suggested by a Facebook friend, Jordan Elliot:

      "OMG! thrs lik sum GUY ty 2 brake into my house! DAFUQ!?!? LOL PLS HLP!!!"

      Facebook? I thought for sure I saw that posed on Chuck Grassley's twitter feed...

    • by tinkerton (199273)

      I shudder to think of the future additions to the "famous last words" listings.

  • by jcrb (187104) <jcrb&yahoo,com> on Monday May 07, 2012 @12:03PM (#39916237) Homepage

    Will they be able to make the phone only talk/text to the 911 operator till they release the "line"?

    Or perhaps turn on the audio, i.e. you text "I can't talk there is a burglar in my house", and they can turn on the phone/video and listen?

    I suppose they could also make it take your picture to cut down on prank calls, otherwise how do they stop people saying "someone texted it in when I put the phone down" (yes they can cover the camera, but you know they will think of the feature)

    Or turn on the video so you can show the 911 operator what is happening... which would be a cool feature for voice 911 calls as well.

    I for one welcome our new smart phone overlords.

    • You know, anyone can pick up your phone and make the phone call as well. And it's a bit faster too.

      I'd avoid leaving the phone unattended close to people willing to make prank calls to 911 on your behalf, for a start.

      • by jcrb (187104)

        You didn't read what I wrote. I wasn't talking about someone other than the phone's owner making prank 911 txts, I was talking about the phone's owner making the prank txt and *claiming* it wasn't them to get out of trouble, because there would be no recording of their voice.

    • by Loosifur (954968)

      Interesting idea, but that only works if you use a phone with a forward-facing camera on a system that supports simultaneous voice and data transmission. Also, the flash might be an issue from a not-being-seen-by-ax-wielding-lunatic perspective.

  • How about a feature that lets you send pictures, videos, and live-camera feed to 911?

    Of course you'll need both the phone and the 911 call center to have this ability.

    In the interim, how about making a smartphone app that does all of this:
    * call your local 911 by voice and/or send a text
    * determine if the 911 call center has the ability to receive images or files, and if so, allow the phone user to send them
    * determine if the 911 call center has the ability to receive live camera feeds, and if so, allow the

  • This is stupid. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Theoden (121862) on Monday May 07, 2012 @12:11PM (#39916327)

    As a firefighter/aemt, we already get multiple, redundant calls with no information because the caller is "driving by the scene and thought you should know." So now we'll get a text message with no way for the operator to try and pull more information from the caller.

    "omg im dying plz help"

    So we dispatch two ALS ambulance crews, an engine company and local first responders to find some idiot who broke his toe.

    0_o

    • by Krischi (61667)

      Meanwhile, people get hurt or die because they are unable to make a voice call to 9-1-1. The deaf, hard of hearing, and speech impaired are in a situation right now where they effectively have no access to 9-1-1 - almost no one uses TTYs anymore, and on wireless these TTYs do not work well anyway.

  • Soon... (Score:5, Funny)

    by wmspider (1333299) on Monday May 07, 2012 @12:12PM (#39916349)
    Fire - exclamation mark - fire - exclamation mark - help me - exclamation mark. Looking forward to hearing from you. Yours truly, ...
    • by fermion (181285)
      Was anyone else thinking about the IT Crowd episode where Moss emails the fire department. I think the reason not to have texting to 911 is that real time synchronous communication is best for emergencies.
    • by keytoe (91531)
      Four! I mean Five! I mean FIRE!
  • by AxemRed (755470) on Monday May 07, 2012 @12:13PM (#39916361)
    This would be ideal for certain situations where you need to contact the police but where it would be ill-advised to draw attention to yourself by making a phone call.
  • folks who find themselves in dangerous situations

    I wonder if those folks will remember to put their phone on silent before sending a text message to 911, in the heat of the moment. Otherwise the reply message might attract some unwanted attention.

  • On one hand, it is probably a good idea to include a channel for emergency contact for the deaf/mute population, and for those in situations where audible speech is ill-advised, such as a hostage scenario...

    THAT SAID, it is far more likely the system is going to be inundated with spam from, for lack of a more accurate descriptor, fucking imbeciles (who think taking 15 minutes to compose a 4 sentence message is somehow more efficient than taking 15 seconds to just call the person), which will cause it to ap
    • by Krischi (61667)

      Black Hawk County in Iowa has been offering text-to-911 for quite a while. The public safety answering point says that call volume has not been a problem for them. In fact, they have been urging more carriers to join this program.

      • Black Hawk County in Iowa has been offering text-to-911 for quite a while. The public safety answering point says that call volume has not been a problem for them. In fact, they have been urging more carriers to join this program.

        Sure, it's easy enough for a county with a population of less than 150,000; also, probably not a whole lot of trolls in that demographic.

        That model begins to become questionable when implemented in areas with a greater population density.

  • Dear Sir/Madam:

    I am writing to inform you of a fire that has broken out in the basement level of the... No, too formal...

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday May 07, 2012 @12:42PM (#39916693) Homepage Journal

    In rural areas there is often as much "fringe" coverage where SMS works but a voice call can't complete as there is "service area". The best you can do now is to text a bunch of your friends with, "crashed in ditch on river rd, ovrtrned, brkn neck, pls call 911," and hope somebody notices.

    This kind of 911 service could effectively double mobile 911 coverage in those places. That's quite sufficient a reason to put up with the whiny problems posted above.

  • support Twitter too?

  • Timmy: *Cough* Siri, go get help
    Siri: Ruff
    Dispatcher: What is it girl? Is Timmy hurt?
    • While this is funny (well, it made me smile), it might be interesting to see how an Intelligent Assistant (insert your favorite) might work with this.

      One example given above was a car accident. If you see one, you just say, "Hey, let the cops know there's an accident," and your Intelligent Assistant figures out your location and sends "Accident on 110N b4 Rosecrans" and sends it off.

  • It's a regulatory agency. Just order it, you doofi.
  • Me: Hey baby - I want to play put it where it doesn't belong.

    911: Please state the nature of your emegency.

    Me: I need to shoot my load reallly bad

    911: Police are being dispatched to your location.

  • i c suspect in hoodie omg here he comes SMG!

  • While its good to have this as an option as in this case more options are good, calling 911 and leaving the phone off the hook ( prompting a police visit ) is far faster than having to sit there and actually text 'help me'.

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