Injured, on fire, or under fire citizens can now text the emergency services in a new pilot program in the US.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said that it had selected a number of (primarily rural) areas to trial the service, in which citizens can send texts to 911 in order to notify police and fire departments of emergency situations.
The service, which has been in the works for years, will be trialed with AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile networks in areas where call centers have been equipped to receive the SMS calls. Users in areas which do not yet have text-to-911 enabled will send bounce-back messages.
The FCC noted that users who can place a 911 call by voice should do so, even in the areas where text services are enabled.
Thus far, the text service is limited to a dozen trial deployments (PDF list). While most of the deployments are in small-population and rural areas, full state roll-outs have been introduced in Maine and Iowa.
The FCC has said that it wants to rollout the program nationwide by the end of the year, so that anyone who wants to complain to the police about the quality of their pizza can do so without the embarrassment of having voice recorded.
Jokes aside, the text-to-911 service has the very practical and beneficial aim of improving emergency services for the hearing-impaired or those who would otherwise have trouble making a voice call. Such services could supplement TTY and text telephone services for the hearing impaired.
In the UK, similar services have been set up which allow registered mobile users to access emergency services through their mobile devices. ®