text-to-911 screen shot
Image: NCCC

August 12, 2014

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Tuesday adopted rules requiring text messaging providers to enable Americans to text 911 in an emergency.

While the four major wireless carriers committed to support text-to-911 by May 2014, the new rules would require the remaining carriers and certain IP-based text application providers to be prepared to support the service the end of the year. Text messaging providers will have six months to deploy the service to 911 call centers that request it.

Although text-to-911 availability is currently limited, it is rapidly expanding. More than 100 call centers serving portions of 16 states and the entire states of Maine and Vermont are now accepting emergency texts.

To help protect consumers as text-to-911 is deployed, the FCC previously adopted rules requiring text messaging providers to send an automatic 'bounce-back' text message to consumers who try to text 911 where the service is not available.

The service will provide an alternate for people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, have speech disabilities or are in a situation where making a phone call is not safe.

As of August 7, the only North Carolina call centers that accept text-to-911 messages are Cabarrus and City of Durham.

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