Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Communications Cellphones Handhelds United States

For US Customers, Text Access To 911 Slowly Rolls Out 58

Posted by timothy
from the omg-send-3+-ambos-&-type-0-blood-pls-lol dept.
SmartAboutThings (1951032) writes "After it was long rumored and discussed about, the ability to text 911 in case of emergency is slowly rolling out in the United States to subscribers of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. For the time being, the service is available in areas of Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont and Virginia. According to the FCC, the service will gradually roll out to more areas and by the end of this year, virtually anyone with a cellphone and enough service will be able to make use of it. Which means that all carriers will support it." TechCrunch has a deeper article that explains why "you probably can't use it yet," and links to the FCC's own explanation of the service.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

For US Customers, Text Access To 911 Slowly Rolls Out

Comments Filter:
  • Specific use cases (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Friday May 16, 2014 @08:56AM (#47016675) Journal

    Maybe I've seen too many TV shows but if you have a pre-recorded text for 911, something like seven key strokes can send it silently whereas the standard voice call risks the attacker hearing you.

    I wasn't impressed with the article. At a higher level there has to be some coding you can send that says "can't speak, puts my life in danger". I don'tr know what that would be, but it rises above the article's cheap promotion of voice calls.

    • Thank you, Tao. I was wondering what the point of texting 911 was. You've provided more than enough reason for the service to exist....
      • by Bigbutt (65939)

        The woman hiding in a closet or under a bed hiding from an intruder is a good example. The one I recall, she texted her friend who called 911 but they didn't make it in time unfortunately.

        [John]

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The woman hiding in a closet or under a bed hiding from an intruder is a good example. The one I recall, she texted her friend who called 911 but they didn't make it in time unfortunately.

          [John]

          When seconds count, the police are minutes away.

          • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

            When seconds count, the police are minutes away.

            Yes? And? Do you have a point, or do you just like parotting soundbites?

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              That's not a soundbyte; it's the truth. His point is that the police don't actually protect anyone.

              • by Anonymous Coward

                Yes they do?

                • Sometimes.

                  But most of the time, they arrive after the situation is no longer dangerous [intruder has left, robbery is over, fight is over], where they are simply there to figure out how many charges they can lay against anyone in the area [so, he hit you with this pipe, oh, is that weed in your pocket?]

              • Because they can't be there every minute of every day? What do you want, a policeman stationed in every cupboard?

                Bad things happen, and you can't stop them all. Learn to live with it.

      • Hallo Sir Avenger.

        I'll go even further with a new avenue. Let's say that there is no attacker, that it's a "contained" emergency like a self inflicted wound or an auto hit or whatever. *Both* text *and* voice could save lives. If you have stuff like

        "Geroald MacKenzei with the ei and watch the unusual spellings 1433 Maple Avenue #7F Woodside, NY next to 5th and 6th Ave hits M and R trains just past the cross junction of Broadway and Roosevelt. Remember you need to have someone get you in the building." ...al

      • by Anonymous Coward

        In Finland sending an SMS to 112 (the European equivalent of 911) has been possible for a decade already. The purpose is, however, not silent alarms in an armed attacker scenario but to enable hearing-impaired people to get help.

        My personal interest in that is that I have epilepsy and before I got the seizures under control (which happened before smart phones), I would very much have wanted to have such an app as there now are which alert a pre-programmed number when the motion sensor suspects that the pers

    • by Barbarian (9467) on Friday May 16, 2014 @09:31AM (#47016963)

      Maybe I've seen too many TV shows but if you have a pre-recorded text for 911, something like seven key strokes can send it silently whereas the standard voice call risks the attacker hearing you.

      I wasn't impressed with the article. At a higher level there has to be some coding you can send that says "can't speak, puts my life in danger". I don'tr know what that would be, but it rises above the article's cheap promotion of voice calls.

      Not only that, most phones emit a very load beep when making an emergency call.

    • by Dan East (318230) on Friday May 16, 2014 @09:32AM (#47016967) Homepage Journal

      For me this is a very good thing due to the technical aspects, not whether or not you can speak. A text message is just one single packet of data (140 bytes, which can encode 160 7 bit characters). At the lowest voice bitrate, a single second of audio is like sending over 50 text messages - PER SECOND. It takes a much better (as in consistent) connection to initiate and maintain a voice call compared to sending a text message. It also requires a lot more power. As someone who does a lot of hiking and dual sport motorcycle riding in the Appalachian mountains, I know first hand that often the only usable mode of cellular communication is SMS (and don't even dream about data with a bad connection - that's worse than voice even). Of course I also carry my amateur radio as a last ditch fallback if there was an emergency.

      Another big advantage of SMS is your phone will keep retrying to send the message. With voice 911 you have to manually try over and over again until you can get a connection.

      If you look at the death of CNet editor James Kim, and the miraculous survival of his wife and two very young children, you'll find they were saved because just a few packets of cellular data made it from their phone to a cell tower, and a diligent cell tech found that in a log file (which narrowed down the search and his wife and children were found as they were on foot trying to hike out). It's my opinion that they are alive today due to a rare and unpredictable phenomenon known as Tropospheric Ducting, which can temporarily reflect radio waves back down to earth (thus greater than line of sight) when there are layers of atmosphere at different temperatures in the exact right configuration (kind of like how you can see light shimmer over a road surface on a hot day - that is because of the temperature gradient of the air directly above the road compared to the air above it - same thing can happen with radio waves at a larger scale).

      Anyway, there are many times that SMS messages can get through when a voice connection cannot. I will stop on my motorcycle and send a text, then maybe 30 minutes later it will finally go through as I temporarily get service on a mountain ridge, or my cell phone is simply rotated to a more optimum angle relative to the cell tower.

      • Nice angle Dan. I needed you to start the angle because I don't have the skills for that post but I can ride with it.

        Working with that use case, my older iPhone croaks right about at the 6% mark (when it's not glitching.) So for ex if you are right at 7% battery because you spent all day doing stuff, and didn't recharge, you might be able to smash out one or two texts but don't have time for the full call. Similar thing, folks like me have "value plans" for phones and with 60 cents left on the plan there's

        • Calling 911 doesn't cost you a damn thing.

          • by mark-t (151149)
            Yes it does... but it's usually bundled in with your phone service (often required by law, depending on ones jurisdiction).
      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Really? I thought SMS tried once and then stopped forever. Which is why you don't always get an SMS if your phone is off. (I disable it on my phone now, but back when I had it on my account I would occasionally have people ask why I didn't get a text)

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Maybe there should be an app on the phone that dials 911 but puts the phone on mute so that no sounds are emitted from the phone, perhaps with the screen off as well. Perhaps it should play a pre-recorded message to the operator so they know what's going on, and the operator can then hear any noise that's happening in the vicinity. You could even activate it with a panic button that you have on your keychain or in another covenient spot so you don't have to get to your phone in order to activate it.
      • You're close and this would be really easy to make. You just need a bit of a clever UI that stops most prank calls but is "unforgettable" in real emergencies. The actual tech of this is a snap.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          The clever UI to prevent prank calls is the fine you get when you make prank calls to 911.
    • I'm involved with wilderness hiking that can include need for mountain rescue. Here in northern Arizona, cell coverage for SMS is surprisingly good even in a lot of places where voice does not get through. I have witnessed several incidents with victims who could have gotten help much sooner with the ability to text 911

  • by mbadolato (105588) on Friday May 16, 2014 @08:59AM (#47016699)

    This is great idea, right up until they start receiving a zillion drunk texts or things like "EMERGENCY!!! I'M REALLY HIGH AND TACO BELL IS CLOSED! SEND HELP IMMEDIATELY!!!"

    • See my note above.

      For example let's forget tinfoil hats and assume that for once the cops are on your side. You go visit them on a nice safe day and get a series of codes.

      Then you folks work together to make a few pre-recorded 911 texts with those codes and stuff they will need as mentioned in the article. Responders are at work, it's not like chatting, they don't mind a Wall of Text. So with some sort of few keystroke system if you can send any of nine 911 text messages in 12 seconds, that's gotta be plent

    • by alen (225700)

      and being that they will have proof from the phone owner they can start ticketing and arresting people the next day

      • and being that they will have proof from the phone owner they can start ticketing and arresting people the next day

        Except in Colorado, where that's now a legitimate emergency situation.

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday May 16, 2014 @10:00AM (#47017203)

      This is great idea, right up until they start receiving a zillion drunk texts or things like "EMERGENCY!!! I'M REALLY HIGH AND TACO BELL IS CLOSED! SEND HELP IMMEDIATELY!!!"

      Obvious solution: The hefty fines ($200 per call in California) for making non-emergency voice calls to 911, could also apply to non-emergency text messages.

      • by simpsone (830935)
        Except those fines are very rarely enforced. With cell phones you don't actually know precisely who or where the call is coming from. It frequently takes abuse in the thousands or tens of thousands of calls before action is taken.
  • Is the huge ass pop up really necessary? There's already a huge ass banner ad at the top. I used to be able to turn ads off because of my high karma. I'm not sure what happened to that.
    • by jason777 (557591)
      Yeah..its even more awesome when browsing on a mobile phone.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Pop up ads? I haven't seen those in well over a decade. Are there still browsers that don't allow turning that uncivilized behavior off? At the very least consider using adblock or noscript, as they greatly speed up your internet.

      • It's not an actual window pop-up. It's a javascript thing that raises it up from the bottom. I normally don't like ad-blockers because it removes the revenue source from pretty much every website.
  • will it work with no plan? work with blocked txting?

    I had to block txting as I was paying for incoming spam txts.

    • I think you make a good point. These services tend not to flesh out as fast as they need to. But for example any of the dating apps are free (with ads) via Wifi (in your home) So if they really wanted to drill this out (see my note above, emergency codes help) you could for example text 911 on a dating site for free.

      It comes down to how much they want to actually help people vs the political capital. It's not hard to monitor "911" on any of thirty dating apps if they spread the word to solve exactly the pro

  • by koinu (472851)
    The only way, I "text" people.
  • Okay, this is kinda an important topic and too many junk post are threatening to bury it so I will keep raising a couple of new avenues to discuss.

    It's a weird collection of states. Pasted:
    Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont and Virginia

    Linear:
    Colorado
    Georgia
    Illinois
    Indiana
    Iowa
    Maine
    Maryland
    Montana
    New York
    North Carolina
    Ohio
    Pennsylvania
    South Carolina
    Texas
    Vermont
    Virginia

    • by Bigbutt (65939)

      Well Illinois was the first site we set up to use/test Text 2 911 and since we're based in Colorado, maybe that's why it's there (unlikely though, Boulder County uses our competitor's Reverse 911 system). But in general it's going to be up to the various phone companies and PSAPs as to who buys into the service.

      [John]

    • For Pennsylvania, texting 911 is about all the majority of people can handle. Attempting to communicate anything more complicated would really be stretching it.

  • One problem is that 911 isn't implemented in all the US states. Something like 98% of the US is covered by 911. And riding my bike into Canada, there are places where there are signs that say "911 not available past this point". Another point is there are many PSAPs still using very old technology. With a small population, they may not see the need (or have the funds) to buy into a large infrastructure. That's why there are going to be so many different methods of Texting. In larger areas you can send text,

  • by Richy_T (111409)

    Dear Sir/Madam, I am writing to inform you of a fire that has broken out on the premises of 123 Cavendon Road... no, that's too formal.

    [deletes text, starts again]

    Fire - exclamation mark - fire - exclamation mark - help me - exclamation mark. 123 Cavendon Road. Looking forward to hearing from you. Yours truly, Maurice Moss.

  • by Camaro (13996) on Friday May 16, 2014 @10:11AM (#47017283)

    I read the article (gasp! Shocking, I know) and recognise there are certainly important use cases for texting 911. But I work in EMS on a volunteer basis and I would think that in most cases voice calls would work far better, especially in medical situations. There can be a lot of helpful information that can be transferred in a more timely manner that way. Symptoms, time of onset, if situation changes during time of response, number of patients. Working in a rural area it can also be challenging to get an accurate location. In some situations, the 911 operators will also guide the caller in providing early care, such as CPR in a cardiac patient. So yeah, if one is physically able, and it's safe to do, take the time to talk to 911. They know what questions to ask and they will pass that information to the responding agencies so they know what to expect on arrival. Doing the same thing by text would only slow things down.

  • I could probably get help a lot faster via text than a phonecall, in theory. But I have a feeling that auto-correct would fail me at the most inopportune moment. I type "Help! I cut my arm and I'm bleeding bad - nobody is home with me!" iPhone sends: "Help! I catamaran and I'm Breaking Bad - nobody Ishmael with me!"
  • Didn't you mean for US citizens, or has the difference vanished nowadays? I smell cynicism on a large scale here ...
  • I volunteered as a 911 operator, for a sheriff's department (county population around 400,000) for over a dozen years. When cell phones started to take off in the 90's, it was quite COMMON to know that something was going on when the phones lit up pretty much at the same time. Also, with the stupidity of the average U.S. citizen, they would call for some of the dumbest things, that were never an emergency. I remember once, I already had fire & ambulance ON SCENE of a 2 car injury crash on an interstat
  • As a professional who answers 911 calls, I give this approximately 15 minutes before someone drunkenly texts in a selfie of their wang.

Going the speed of light is bad for your age.

Working...