May 7, 2012 at 3:30 PM ET
The folks at Verizon Wireless intend on letting people send text messages to 911 call centers by next year. This means that those who are unable to place a voice call — be it due to disability or danger — will still be able to reach emergency personnel.
This new service isn't intended to replace regular 911 calls, of course. In fact, Verizon clearly states that customers "should always first try to contact a 911 center by making a voice call." The carrier does acknowledge that there can be situations in which it is not possible for someone to make a voice call though — perhaps an individual is deaf, unable to speak or in a dangerous situation. In those scenarios, the ability to send a text message to the appropriate emergency response center without delay could save lives.
As msnbc.com's Suzanne Choney explained some time ago, Verizon isn't the only one thinking along those lines:
The Federal Communications Commission is working on a plan so that everyone with a mobile device can reach 911 in case of an emergency, no matter what the means: text message, video, photo, voice call. And the FCC wants what it calls "Next Generation 911" to be able to determine what location your message is being sent from with accuracy.
While the FCC investigates potential solutions and funding option for "Next Generation 911," Verizon hopes to enable its own text-to-911 service by early 2013. Initially the technology will only be available in select locations, but it sounds like the carrier is intending on expanding its availability quickly.
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