Big Four U.S. Carriers Now Accept 911 Emergency Text Messages
Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, and their associated 911 call centers, now accept emergency SMS text messages, but the new functionality is currently available only in limited areas in 16 states.
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
Today the FCC announced a new initiative, called Text-to-911, that enables many U.S. wireless subscribers to send SMS text messages to 911 in emergency situations instead of having to place a phone call. The goal is for all U.S. carriers and 911 call centers to eventually accept emergency texts.
As of today, the four major U.S. wireless carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile) support the new functionality in “all areas served by their networks where a 911 call center is prepared to receive texts.” But the FCC cautions that this does not mean all of the carriers’ customers are covered, and for now, “you should not rely on text to reach 911.”
To protect consumers, the FCC already requires carriers who don’t support 911 texts in certain areas or at all to send automatic bounce-back messages to let senders know that 911 did not receive their messages.
The FCC is encouraging all 911 call centers to accept 911 texts as soon as possible, but it is not mandated, and for now, it’s ultimately up to each call center to decide if or when it will start supporting 911 texts.
Today, 911 texts are accepted in limited areas in Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.