Public Service Announcement
In December 2012, the four largest wireless carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T‐Mobile, and Verizon), NENA (National Emergency Number Association), and APCO (Association for Public-Safety Communication Officials) agreed to provide a nationwide, interim short message service (SMS) solution for Text‐to‐9‐1‐1 by May 15, 2014. On January 30, 2014, this agreement was codified by the Federal Communications Commission through a policy statement and proposed rule making. That same proposed rule making would also require all wireless carriers to provide Text-to-9-1-1 by December 31, 2014.
While the four largest carriers have met their deadline of May 15, 2014 to accept text messages sent to 9-1-1, local public safety answering points (PSAPs) are required to make modifications to their equipment to accept the text messages. As of May 16, 2014, there were approximately 61 PSAPs out of 5,976 nationwide that have Text-to-9-1-1 capabilities. Over the last few months, the Massachusetts State 911 Department has been working diligently to identify an interim solution for accepting Text- to- 9-1-1 calls. As part of the planning effort, the Department has established a 27- member stakeholder group to assist with the deployment plan and development of a standard operating procedure for Massachusetts PSAPs. The stakeholders group is comprised of select Massachusetts State 911 Commission members (including Commission members representing the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the Massachusetts Office on Disability), supervisors from various Massachusetts PSAPs, and State 911 Department staff.
Until Text-to-9-1-1 service is implemented in Massachusetts, anyone attempting to Text- to- 9-1-1 will receive an automatic “bounce-back” message indicating that Text-to-9-1-1 is not yet available, and advising them to use another method to contact 9-1-1.
Why is Text-to-9-1-1 important? According to the National Organization on Disability, in 2007 there were an estimated 54 million individuals with a disability in the United States. Over 37 million of those individuals were deaf, hard of hearing or had a speech disability. Text-to-9-1-1 will be very useful to the citizens that fall into these categories because it eliminates the need to use ancillary equipment such as a Teletypewriter (TTY), or to use third party services to access 9-1-1. Text-to-9-1-1 will also prove helpful for reporting crimes in progress such as a caller that is facing domestic abuse or in a situation where a voice call to 9-1-1 could put the safety of the victim in further danger.
The State 911 Department is in the process of developing a significant public education campaign to keep the public informed as we make progress on the deployment of this critical 9-1-1 application.
For general information about Text-to-9-1-1 please visit the following websites:
Federal Communications Commission http://www.fcc.gov/text-to-911