Arlington locals may soon be able to text 911 in order to receive emergency help. Yesterday, public safety leaders held a press conference with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to discuss possible changes in 911 services.
Genachowski pointed out that 70% of 911 calls now come from mobile phones, and explained that “the current 911 system is efficient and reliable…but it doesn’t support tomorrows communications tools. With today’s advances in commercial mobile broadband technologies, consumers are texting and sending pictures more through their phones. But right now, you can’t text 911. It’s time to bring 911 into the digital age.” He used the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 as an example of why this is a good idea. He explained that frantic students and witnesses has attempted to text 911 during the emergency, but their messages never went through. Genachowski added that the systems can help in other situations as well. He explained that new-generation 911 options would enable a witness to send a photo of a car leaving after an armed robbery, or allow a deaf person to communicate with an emergency call center without difficulty. Automatic equipment like highway cameras or personal medical devices would be programmed to text 911 during emergencies.
Currently, no countries are implementing these ideas. The development and utilization of the system will demand a lot of effort and cooperation. The new system will also require an increase in staff at emergency call centers.