Most emergency dispatch centers aren’t ready for text to 911

According to ComputerWorld, only 4.5 percent of the nation's 6,500 emergency dispatch centers are capable of receiving and responding to 911 emergencies reported via text messaging.

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a mandate requiring domestic carriers and text application creators to provide emergency text messaging services, however emergency dispatch centers fall outside of the FCC's jurisdiction. Centers are locally regulated by the whoever operates the location, usually either the state, county or municipality in which it resides.

Wireless carriers must begin routing emergency messages to local dispatch centers that request the service by the end of June or six months after a request is made after that date. Information available through the FCC's website shows that only 296 centers, what the FCC calls Public Safety Answer Points, as having requested the service.

Both the FCC, police and other first responders say that calling 911 is still the best way to report an emergency, as speaking can more easily impart information, according to ComputerWorld, but texting can still be incredibly valuable when reporting emergencies.

The technology outlet interviewed a domestic violence victim, whose name they withheld for her protection, who said that a text to 911 service would have been helpful in her situation. Every time she tried to call 911, her abusive boyfriend heard her speaking and forced her off the phone. A more discreet option would have brought an end to her situation sooner.

In addition to that, 911 text messaging services would be beneficial to those with hearing or vocal impairments. Also, ComputerWorld states that texting uses wireless frequencies more efficiently and will often go through quicker in disaster situations when voice channels are flush with callers.

Adding advanced texting capabilities requires a reliable SMS gateway to support the service. Organizations, from emergency services to enterprises, can invest in bulk SMS solutions to support text alerts and similar improvements and ensure they are keeping up with advances in telecommunications technology.