October 19, 2021 by Mark Hamilton

Part 1: Text-to-911

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Industries: 9-1-1 & Law Enforcement

Topics: Analytics Command Center Software Intelligence-Led Policing PSAPs

Call When You Can, Text When You Can’t

In 2016, a federal lawsuit was filed by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) against the State of Arizona. The complaint, which was filed on behalf of several Arizona residents, stated that disabled Arizona citizens were at risk because officials with responsibility for emergency call systems had not updated their technologies to be able to accept text-to-911 messages. 

But text-to-911 doesn’t just help those citizens in Arizona. Another example of the value and benefit of implementing a text-to-911 program is that citizens texting 911 may be in a life and death emergency and unable or prevented from speaking, such as victims in a domestic violence situation.

Today, more than 2,900 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) in the United States are using text-to-911. However, hurdles still remain that are preventing PSAPs from being able to fully adopt a reliable text-to-911 program. That’s why we, as the 911 and vendor community, need to continue to take action.

Did you know that the way many of us use SMS today is not currently supported in the existing text-to-911 standard? The current standard does not support multimedia messaging services (MMS) or group conversations. The public, however, assumes this functionality is part of a PSAP’s text-to-911 program. They may also assume that a PSAP can automatically handle non-English speakers. Instead, language translation may be dependent on bilingual speakers within the PSAP or a third party Language Translation Service. 

Transferring a SMS message is also not standardized. Currently, the ability to transfer a SMS to a different PSAP is limited and heavily dependent on the Text Control Center (TCC).

Implementing a successful text-to-911 program in your PSAP and jurisdiction requires thoughtful planning, a community outreach plan and effective execution to train your staff and inform your community.

In my next blog, I will outline some key considerations of rolling out a text-to-911 program in your area as well as best ways to educate the public. We’ll also go over how to best prepare your organization’s policies and procedures so your staff is ready and understands how to effectively deal with this new media type. 

Discover more resources as well as information on how you can unlock the power of your public safety data.

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