FCC considers texting, cell phone photos to 9-1-1
Cellphone users may be able to text 9-1-1 emergency services as the Federal Communications Commission explores ways to update public safety communications.
In a speech Tuesday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined reforms that would include the ability to text 9-1-1 as more Americans use cellphones as their main tool for communications. He said cell phone users will be able to snap a photo of a car leaving an armed robbery scene and send it to 9-1-1.
"If you find yourself in an emergency situation and want to send a text for help, you can pretty much text anyone except a 9-1-1 call center," Genachowski said at Arlington, Va.'s county emergency services center. "It’s time to bring 9-1-1 into the digital age."
Already 70 percent of 9-1-1 calls come from mobile phones, the agency said. Texting has proved to be an important form of communication, particularly for people with disabilities. And there are circumstances where a call could jeopardize someone's life and safety, the agency said. During the Virginia Tech campus shooting, students tried unsuccessfully to reach police by sending texts to 9-1-1.
Possible texting to 9-1-1 -- the emergency number was established in 1968 -- hasn't been introduced in an official policy proposal. The issue would first be open to public comments before going up for vote.
| November 23, 2010; 10:09 AM ET
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