Text-to-911 Coming to Major U.S. Carriers May 15

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 urgesthat 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.

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