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Cellphones Government Technology

FCC To Allow Texting To 911 321

tekgoblin writes "The FCC is looking into allowing people to report incidents to 911 via SMS from their mobile phones. They are also considering mobile video to show the 911 service what is going on. The current 911 system handles around 230 million calls per year with most of the calls being from mobile phones. One situation influenced this move to allow texting to 911 was the Virginia Tech shooting. 'The technological limitations of 9-1-1 can have tragic, real-world consequences,' the release said. 'During the 2007 Virginia Tech campus shooting, students and witnesses desperately tried to send texts to 9-1-1 that local dispatchers never received. If these messages had gone through, first responders may have arrived on the scene faster with firsthand intelligence about the life-threatening situation that was unfolding.'"
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FCC To Allow Texting To 911

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  • Re:What the hell (Score:3, Informative)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @10:05AM (#34316948) Journal

    If the dispatcher needs more info, they can always text back.

    Besides with cellphone GPS, it pretty much provides everything that might be needed. "I'm being held hostage by a shooter at UVA!" plus the GPS will tell the dispatcher where to send police. IMHO it makes logical sense to tap the new techniques that texting and built-in cameras provide.

  • by beetle496 ( 677137 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @10:18AM (#34317092) Homepage
    As announced in the Federal Register [], this is actually a proposed rule which is open for public comments [].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @10:32AM (#34317248)

    What if you have a prepaid cellphone and are out of cash? 911 (etc. in other countries) are free to call for exactly this reason. It even works without having a SIM card in the phone (at least for European GSM phones) OR knowing any password - typing 112 or 911 will bypass this.

    While the "no sim" or "locked phone" is less of a problem, "out of cash" is a bigger one.

  • Re:What the hell (Score:4, Informative)

    by faedle ( 114018 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @10:38AM (#34317326) Homepage Journal

    Um... "GPS" doesn't mean what you think it does in this context. To most consumers, "GPS" has come to mean any location-aware device, regardless of the methodology of geolocation.

    Most cell phones, especially smart ones like Android and iOS based phones, are able to provide disturbingly precise fixes without using the satellite constellation. It is completely possible to get a reasonable fix from cell tower triangulation.

    Even then, cell phone GPS chips have gotten pretty good at scraping the signal out of the noise. With assistance from the tower triangulation, it is possible to get a fairly precise fix with only one or two GPS satellites visible. Add to that a possible WiFi signal location, and you've got many ways to get a fix indoors good enough for 911.

    So, yes, "GPS" does work indoors now.

  • Re:What the hell (Score:3, Informative)

    by RKenshin1 ( 899412 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @10:45AM (#34317398)
    Also, I found this tidbit out from working with our Sheriff's Office for the past 3 years.... Most of the time, a cell phone location can't be pinpointed. It does pinpoint on the mapping system, but it's a best guess based on triangulation between towers. Often, you have to assume it's within a square mile of where it shows on the mapping system. It may be a lot different in larger cities with a higher tower density, but that's been my experience with cell phone mapping. Definitely not what you see in the movies!
  • Other way (Score:3, Informative)

    by wraithguard01 ( 1159479 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @10:52AM (#34317496) Homepage
    I'm a volunteer firefighter, and our dispatch center already sends us texts, as well as the typical page out over radio. That system proves incredibly useful for us. There is no way for us to text back through the system though, and the number is not a 911 number, it's a normal SMS short code number. Of course, going the other way is a different situation entirely, but my point is, I think that this shows that it is inevitable that texting is going to soon become a part of normal 911 operations.

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