Soon you'll be able to text 911 for help from your mobile phone, regardless of whether you're a T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint subscriber. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced that all four wireless carriers have agreed to accelerate the availability of text-to-911, with major deployment expected in 2013. They've also committed to nationwide availability by May 15, 2014.
The push for text-to-911 isn't meant as a replacement or substitute for voice calling. Instead, it's for situations where a voice call might endanger the caller, or when a person with disabilities is unable to make a voice call. Even after this rolls out, the FCC encourages calling 911 in emergency situations, if possible.
"Access to 911 must catch up with how consumers communicate in the 21st century – and today, we are one step closer towards that vital goal. Last year I announced a comprehensive plan to accelerate the transition to Next Generation 911, including text-to- 911, and the FCC has acted to advance this effort," Genachowski said in a statement.
Sometime in the future, you'll also be able to send photos and vidoes via text to 911. However, there's no time frame for when those features will be rolled out.
To ensure people know if their text went through or not, wireless carriers have also committed to providing an automatic "bounce back" text message, which will notify consumers if their attempt to text 911 failed because the service is not yet available in their area.