Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hey, CRESA, Can I Text 9-1-1 Yet?

The Short Answer is "Not Yet!"....

Yesterday, one of our favorite tech magazines, CNet, posted an article about your ability to text 9-1-1.

This article recognized that on May 15th, the phone carriers should all be ready to allow its consumers to text 9-1-1 for emergencies.

But what is really important about this statement is the fact that even though the "carriers are ready," that is only half of the equation necessary to make the text-to-911 services fully ready.

Government-owned 9-1-1 infrastructure must also be prepared to take SMS messages and be able to process them in a way that gives agencies like ours the information necessary to act on the text message.

Here is the list of locations where text-to-911 is currently in place:  http://transition.fcc.gov/cgb/text-to-911-deployments.pdf

Currently, Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) or 9-1-1 Agencies in the State of Washington are dependent on preparatory activities that are occurring at the state level to enhance the "emergency services info net" or the ESI Net.  These enhancements should improve the ability to transmit and process the text messages.

CRESA, here locally, is also currently working on equipment upgrades that will allow us to receive text messages in SW Washington.  We anticipate that we will be capable of receiving text messaging sometime in 2015.

Currently, if you send a text to 9-1-1 in an area that is not capable, you will receive a bounce-back message from the carrier that will let you know that your text message was not received by a 9-1-1 Agency.

And while we appreciate the situations in which text will be useful (if the caller cannot use their voice), you will always hear us say that "Voice is the Choice" and most preferred method of sharing information.  This is because we can confirm your location and gather information about the emergency much more quickly from a voice caller.

Consider for a minute what most of your text messages look like and how often there are seconds-long drag between your information-sharing with friends.  When "every second counts" in an emergency, we want to be sure that we can effectively and efficiently dispatch the emergency services you need to respond to your call.

Help us help you by being sure that your friends and family understand that May 15th is only a significant marker for the phone carrier side of this equation.  And keep watching for news from us of  when we are ready to receive your text messages.

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