Apparently several government agencies are looking into the possibility of enabling the public to send text messages, photos and even video to 911, according to a recent article I read in ABC News Online. These ideas are apparently a part of “the next generation of 911.” While the realization of this idea may be a long way off, it’s certainly an interesting concept in today’s digital world.
Just think about it: The ability to send texts could protect the safety of a kidnapping victim who manages to get his or her hands on a cell phone but is afraid to contact 911 for fear of the kidnapper overhearing. Photo and video opens up even more possibilities. By sending photo or video files to emergency centers, you could paint a clear picture to emergency responders of the severity of a situation, and provide images of suspects and other persons of interest if you witness a crime.
Reporting on the efforts of the FCC to technologically upgrade 911 emergency services, Wired Magazine quoted an FCC press release, which pointed out that several students and witnesses of the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007 tried to text message 911 to no avail. If the texts had reached emergency centers, emergency responders may have been able to get the situation under control more quickly, the FCC said in the press release.
Significant barriers do exist to allowing these capabilities. First of all, configuring emergency contact systems to receive text messages and video files could be expensive, and who would be responsible for paying for necessary improvements? Emergency dispatchers would need to be trained in the new technology. State and local law enforcement would have to be on board with the plan. Also, critics of the improvements have said the idea could be impractical. Emergency dispatchers already receive a large volume of non-emergency phone calls. If texting were allowed, and the person contacting 911 didn’t actually have to speak with a real human being, would dispatchers receive even more prank and non-emergency messages?
I for one think more lives could be saved, more property could be protected and more crimes could be solved by bringing 911 into the 21st century.
This guest post is contributed by Alvina Lopez, who writes on the topics of accredited online schools. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: alvina.lopez @gmail.com.