New text-to-911 option to be unveiled soon

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — If you have an emergency and own a cell phone, you may soon have a new way of getting help in a hurry.

Starting Thursday, May 15, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile will make it possible to send a text message to emergency services 911, instead of just calling.

While text-to-911 will make a significant different for the hearing and speech impaired and in situations where placing a call is dangerous, 911 operators say calls provide information that texts don’t.

911 centers in your area must be able to handle the text messages and many aren’t ready.

“There are a lot of technological hurdles underneath the surface that people don’t think about all the time,” said CNET.com senior editor Jessica Dolcourt said. “Unlike phone calls to 911, which are basically given priority, the text message is not given priority at this point.”

If you text 911 and the service isn’t up and running where you live, you’ll receive a bounce-back message instructing you to call instead.

To check where text-to-911 is available, go to http://fcc.gov/text-to-911.

Copyright 2014  WIAT 42 News

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