The California Technology Agency has released a Request for Information (RFI) seeking information from vendors on “Text-to-9-1-1” technologies that can be used to develop the state’s public safety response and accessibility.
Individuals with disabilities are text messaging every day. The availability of Text-to-9-1-1 has become an important accessibility issue for individuals who are deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing, and individuals with speech disabilities.
Text-to-9-1-1 would also be an alternative to voice calls to 9-1-1 in certain circumstances where speaking aloud might expose and endanger the caller in times of domestic violence, burglary, or during certain terrorism situations. Wireless text and/or data services may also operate in locations where radio coverage is too weak to support a voice call to 9-1-1 or if calls are made in wilderness areas.
In the case of Short Message Services, the actual deployment of SMS-to-9-1-1 is all but non-existent. For liability protection and for the education of SMS users, the major wireless carriers have implemented automatic replies to the sender for inbound SMS messages to 9-1-1 to indicate that the service is not available and that the caller should make a voice call to 9-1-1.
The FCC is in the final stages of issuing Text-to-9-1-1 rules and the FCC’s four major mobile phone carriers, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile USA have agreed to implement 9-1-1 testing nationwide by May 2014. By June 2013 where texting is not yet supported, automatic replies will begin alerting citizens to call 9-1-1 instead of texting.
In response to the need to be able to request emergency services using text messaging, the California’s Technology Agency, released an RFI on February 5, 2013. The agency seeks information and suggestions on how to help their California 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Division with their planning efforts to plan and improve requests for emergency services. The agency is interested in Text-to-9-1-1 solutions, technologies, and associated costs, regardless of the originating device, application, or network. The Technology Agency is scheduled to launch its first Text-to-911 Pilot Project by the fall of 2013.