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Text-to-911 feature comes to four major cellular carriers May 15

updated 12:10 am EDT, Fri May 9, 2014

US carriers bring free service to cellular devices, FCC still urges voice contact

Starting May 15, the four major US carriers -- AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon -- will offer support for the text-to-911 service, that allows those in an emergency to send text messages in circumstances where a phone call may not be possible. Even though the service will be active, not all areas will have it available, as local law enforcement systems will still need to adopt the system for it be accessible.

In January, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a policy that would allow messaging companies and providers to enable the ability to send text messages to 911 call centers. The end goal for the FCC was to have the service available to all text providers by December 30. A similar program has been in operation since 2011 in some cities, such as Los Angeles, and a few states like Iowa, Maryland and Vermont.

A bounce-back system has been put in place informing those who attempt to send texts to 911 to call instead. This is done to help ease the transition as more systems are brought on board, but has actually been in service across the four major carriers since September 2013.

Texts are not meant as a direct replacement for a phone call to 911, according to the FCC. They urge those in an emergency situation to make a voice call if possible. As of April 8, 2013, several areas in 17 states have listed the service as activated, almost all of which are through Verizon. To see if the service is currently available in a given area check with the FCC.

By Electronista Staff


  1. Inkling

    Senior User

    Joined: 07-25-06

    Keep in mind that text-to-911 is a less useful option than calling. In emergencies, many people panic. They don't give all the information that 911 operators need and they need the assistance of a calm voice at the other end. That said, there are situations where signals are so weak that only a text message is likely to get through. Where I live, AT&T coverage is so spotty, I might be better off texting in a fire alarm. And I live on a hilltop in the middle of a university town. AT&T is so indifferent about its customers, its sales staff would not even tell me where its towers are. I had to go online to discover they're spaced out along an Interstate about 20 miles apart, with none near me. Their coverage in more rural areas must be awful.

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