WASHINGTON, N.Y. -- New rules adopted earlier in August by the Federal Communications Commission require mobile carriers and many text messaging apps to enable people to send text messages to 911 by the end of the year.
The Text-to-911 service is considered a lifeline, especially in cases where it’s too dangerous to talk, like domestic abuse or hostage situations. It’s also vital for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
“Text to 911 provides direct access. The connection happens quickly. It’s more efficient. Less risk involved," said Dr. Christian Vogler, Gallaudet University.
Vogler and his team at Gallaudet advised the FCC on the technology. He said, right now, a deaf person in need of help has to first contact an interpreter through a video relay service.
“The call is delayed. It takes a long time to actually get through the relay service – probably five to ten minutes, which obviously if you are having a heart attack is not good," Vogler said.
Depending on where you live, that text might not go anywhere. Less than two percent of 911 dispatch centers across the country support the technology.
It’s only available in parts of 16 states – including New York, Texas and North Carolina.
At the moment, there is no nationwide plan to implement Text-to-911.
While that’s being worked out, the FCC said that texting the police – for now – should be limited to the hearing-impaired in the areas where it’s available.
"I know that all the deaf and hard-of-hearing people I work with have been fighting for this for a long time because they do want access now," Vogler said.