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Ditch crappy landlines and start reading Twitter, 999 call centres told

Emergency srvcs need 2 use mor social media + txts LOL

The emergency 999 call system needs a radical digital shake-up to incorporate text and social media responses, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has said in a report today (July 8).

The report, Contacting Emergency Services in the Digital Age, recommends the blue light services move away from landlines to smart phones, and from voice to data. It said they should create a "cross platform" database with a user-friendly interface for all service providers to connect to.

There is "considerable opportunity" to improve the existing emergency services using GPS and automatic software to scan texts, it said.

Such a system could also check whether the message contains keywords and incorporate camera or voice-recording functions "resulting in a much more accurate and rapid assessment of the level and nature of the threat involved", the report added.

The IET reckons this move may not only save lives, but could allow calls and messages to be better filtered to receive more appropriate and faster responses at lower cost.

Professor Will Stewart, chair of the IET’s Communications Policy Panel, said:

Ofcom figures show, for example, that 94 per cent of communications from 12-15 year olds is text based.

Given that young people are statistically more likely to be victims of crime or accidents, it is a concern that making a voice call to contact the emergency services is not something that would feel natural to them.

Superintendent Mark Nottage, who works on the Emergency Services Mobile Communication Programme at the Home Office, agreed that more digital data-based public services are needed.

However, how such a system would be implemented remains unclear, given the problematic history of the police and Home Office in revamping their emergency services systems.

Only last month, the ongoing bidding process for the £1.2bn omnishambles emergency services contract to replace the creaking Airwave TETRA radio system collapsed. ®

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