You Can Text Emergencies to 911 From May 15 In Some Areas

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If you’re ever caught in a situation where you want to dial 911 but don’t want an intruder to hear you, a feature that will be live next week could save your life. America’s four largest carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon — will support Text-to-911 starting May 15 to provide a helpful option for those caught in dangerous circumstances.

While a Text-to-911 program has been around since as early as 2011, the feature was only available on a limited basis in a few markets such as Los Angeles, Iowa, Maryland, Durham and Vermont. The FCC announced a proposed rule to make this service uniformly available via all text providers by Dec 30, 2014. 

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Text-to-911 is not meant to replace emergency calls but to help those who can’t speak or are hard of hearing. The FCC urges that if possible, you should make a voice call to 911 instead of sending a message, since the feature still isn’t widely available. If your local call center isn’t equipped to receive texts, you will get a bounce-back message telling you it failed. 

As of April 8, 2014, select areas in some 17 states such as California, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia already support Text-to-911, meaning you’ll be able to get help with an SMS. All of Vermont, Iowa and Maine are Text-to-911-ready. The FCC has a list of areas that support the service so you can see if you’re covered. 

Image via TelecCommunication System Inc.

Cherlynn Low
Cherlynn Low
Cherlynn joined the Laptopmag team in June 2013 and has since been writing about all things tech and digital with a focus on mobile and Internet software development. She also edits and reports occasionally on video. She graduated with a M.S. in Journalism (Broadcast) from Columbia University in May 2013 and has been designing personal websites since 2001.
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