So we are almost in the middle of 2014, a lot of things have transcended to advanced features because of the ever growing technology, and life has become overall less complicated. Well, it is still complicated, but not that complicated when seen from a perspective of a tech nerd.
Speaking of 911 and emergency rescue calls, the most obvious next step was text messaging. The idea seems cool at first, but there are some limitations and what you’d call prerequisites to sending text messages to 911 rescue team operators.
Let’s start with the good stuff; all the main mobile service providers, such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile are going to be routing text messages addressed to 911 to local police stations. As a result, the correspondents at the police station will immediately get down to offering support to the person in need. Sounds fair enough and simple so far, doesn’t it?
Here comes a bucket load of shit:
It doesn’t matter if Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile or any other company has offered the text to 911 option in your smartphone features section. What’s the point of this service when your text messages are not being routed or received by the concerned police station. The cellphone company has no right or say over the fact whether a police station will be implementing the ‘text to 911’ message receiving option at its end.
I wouldn’t say that the officials are being lazy or careless with the implementation. After all, text messaging is a nice idea when you are in need of urgent 911 support. However, it takes financial measures, collaboration with communication services providers, and PSAP regulations have to be met before each and every police station can continue with the ‘text to 911’ service.
PSAP is the short form for ‘Public Safety Answering Point’; it is more like a set of policies that have to be met by the authorities considering implementing the said service. Some local police stations have proceeded with text to 911, but others are still awaiting financial support, legal advice, and training process for those people who’d be receiving/ reading the text messages.
Phone calls are still a better option over text messaging to 911:
Trust me, 911 is and will always be a phone call away. Besides it takes longer to type down a text message and that too when you are in a panic situation. Even under normal circumstances, there could be message delivery delays depending on the message priority as set by your service provider, or by the PSAP authorities.
On top of that, when there is a low signal strength, the text message can get queued up without you even knowing about it. If your text message is not delivered you are supposed to receive a bounce back message immediately.
Sometimes this does not happen, hence making the sender believe that the message was sent to 911 without any delays. By the way, text messaging takes longer than a phone call. Given the situation that you might be in, you want to deliver a text message that can be deciphered easily.
A lot of people don’t even bother to write proper words. They expect the reader to understand the context of the text message. There’s also the useless auto-correct issue. You are typing down something and auto-correct “corrects” it to something totally different.
Kimberly Murch is the Public Safety Dispatch Supervisor at Golden Gate Communications Center. Murch recently said, “if somebody is running from the scene, we need to know what that person looks like, because in a few minutes, you may not remember what they look like.”
For the time being, the authorities and police stations are testing the waters. As compared to the usual 911 distress phone calls, the ratio of text messages is very low. Perhaps people are used to calling 911 directly over the last couple of years that the idea of texting seems alien to them at some point.
What do you think? Would you rather call 911 or simply use the ‘send text to 911’ option from your smartphone during a crisis situation? Share your thoughts through the comments section below.