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FCC Launches Webpage with Best Practices for Implementing Text-to-911

by: Rear Admiral (Ret.) David Simpson, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

March 7, 2014

Today we launched an interactive webpage with best practices to assist text message providers and 911 call centers with deploying text-to-911.  

The webpage contains materials prepared by Vermont, Texas, and other state 911 call centers (known as public safety answering points or PSAPs) that have already successfully integrated text-to-911, with expertise and insight that can ease the deployment process for others.  For example, the State of Vermont has developed a list of “lessons learned” from its highly successful text-to-911 implementation as well as a series of informational videos for potential text-to-911 users.

The webpage is a tool enabling text providers and PSAPs to contribute and refer to comments, best practices, and informational materials.  It additionally contains documents from public safety organizations NENA and APCO, with Frequently Asked Questions, a checklist of issues that 911 call centers should consider, and technological options available to support text-to-911.

Why is this important?  In today’s world, wireless usage has become increasingly text-based. Yet in most parts of the country, if you send a text message to 911 during an emergency, it won’t be received.  Being able to text during an emergency is essential for the tens of millions of Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities. Texting can also provide an alternative means of contacting 911 when a voice call may place someone in danger, such as in an active shooter or domestic abuse situation, or when voice networks are congested. 

For these reasons, the Commission has made text-to-911 a priority.  In January the Commission adopted a Policy Statement in favor of making text-to-911 available on all text platforms that support interconnected texting. The Commission recognized the leadership of the nation’s four largest wireless carriers, who have voluntarily committed to support text-to-911 service by May 15, 2014, in areas where the local PSAP can accept texts.  The Commission also encouraged other wireless providers and interconnected text providers to similarly support text-to-911 and proposed that they do so by the end of the year. 

These actions set the table for text-to-911.  For this potentially life-saving service to be uniformly available nationwide, however, all text providers and PSAPs need to do their part. I recently had the chance to visit a wonderfully run PSAP in Seminole County, Florida, where I was able to discuss both the value that text-to-911 will provide in communities and see the hurdles with implementing text capabilities. We know that the public safety community faces funding and operational challenges in adopting new services.  But we have also seen how text-to-911 pioneers – PSAPs, wireless providers, and vendors –have worked together to overcome these challenges.  Our new webpage is intended to capture these lessons and enable stakeholders to learn from one another. We hope you will take part.

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