Around 50% of emergency 911 calls are made from cell phones, but call centers do not have the capability to receive text messages as part of the service they provide. The Federal Communications Commission is hoping to change that in the near future. The FCC is trying to create plans for a system that can accept any types of calls, whether they are sent as text messages, photos, or videos. They also are attempting to make it easier to pinpoint a location, which is more difficult with mobile phones than landlines.
It is being hailed as Next Generation 911. The FCC is going to be working with local and state agencies as well as the federal government for the adoption of the plan. One issue that they will face is funding. Many agencies cannot afford new technology and often face cutbacks in their budget.
The FCC is promoting the benefits. Not only could the dispatchers get more calls from people who need help, they could have access to live information to make response time quicker and more effective.
For instance, dispatchers would have access to road conditions and traffic to determine the best route and allow emergency vehicles to get to the scene several minutes sooner than otherwise. They would know the hospitals’ capacity to take multiple victims, and they could see footage of an accident scene for car crashes or other accidents to determine where the victims should be transported.
Photos could be sent to dispatchers before medics arrive on the scene to make early assessments and save time. All of these improvements could mean more lives would be saved.
With the issue of locating people on cell phones and funding for the new service, it may take some time for every 911 center to have the additional technology, but they are headed in the right direction. Wireless carriers will implement texting by 2014.