For many young people, texting might seem like a more quick and intuitive way to communicate than picking up the phone to make a voice call. And for some people in some circumstances, this relatively new technology may be the only way to communicate.
Several U.S. government agencies have for some time been considering how to plan and implement the next generation of 911; the plan has been to incorporate SMS text messaging, images and even video into emergency requests to get "the right information to the right people at the right time."
Now, several outlets are reporting that the FCC is pushing for more technology for 911 — technology that would lead to better, faster responses from emergency workers. In fact, the FCC even says 911 could be automatically notified of possible or likely emergencies by sensors, from OnStar to home alarms and many more.
The "Next Gen 911" project, which, according to 911.gov, is actually under the auspices of the Department of Transportation, "draws on the expertise of public safety experts to identify and prioritize digital data, potentially available to first responders… which could best improve their safety and performance," according to the Transportation Safety Advancement Group, the organization that is tasked with carrying out these changes.
While texting 911 when an emergency arises seems like a grand idea (and the next logical step for 911), we have a way to go before this marriage between emergency response and technology is a reality. Look for a white paper from the TSAG in February 2011; this paper will present the recommendations of first responders regarding the kind of information they would want and need from a more digitally oriented 911 service.