The FCC wants to improve the infrastructure for 9-1-1 centers in order for them to support text messages, both sent and received, as the committee looks toward the next generation of the emergency call service.
While speaking to the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski issued a plan for updating the nation's 9-1-1 service. While there are a number of steps discussed, the two main points are the ability for emergency call centers to receive and send text messages.
Naturally, the received texts would be for emergencies, whereas, the broadcast text messages would act as advisories or warnings, like, say, a riot breaks out in your area and pertinent information is required. While the transcript is full of corporate-speak, there are nuggets of wisdom to be gleaned from Genachowski's statements concerning PLAN (Personal Localized Alerting Network):
This new technology and service will turn mobile devices into emergency alert devices with potentially life-saving messages when public safety is threatened. With PLAN, government officials will be able to send text-like alerts to everyone in a targeted geographic area with an enabled mobile device. Since the alerts are geographically targeted, they will reach the right people, at the right time, with the right messages. And PLAN creates a fast lane for emergency alerts, so this vital information is guaranteed to get through even if there's congestion in the network.
Would you welcome a government service that warned you of impending dangers, directly to your phone based on your location? Even if it's unsolicited? As for the other aspect of text message--the reception of in 9-1-1 call centers--Genachowski continues:
For a growing number, its texting, which, unbelievable as it is, the current system doesn't support. It's hard to imagine that airlines can send text messages if your flight is delayed, but you can't send a text message to 9-1-1 in an emergency. With NG9-1-1, no matter how you try to contact 9-1-1, your call for help will be delivered. And NG911 holds tremendous promise for persons with disabilities. Texting can make 9-1-1 accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
In case you aren't sure, "NG9-1-1" stands for "next generation 9-1-1," and if the service starts including video--a very real possibility--all that next gen stuff will fit:
Opening up 9-1-1 to new means of communications not only makes the service more accessible, but enabling the public to transmit photos, video, and data will dramatically enhance the ability of first responders to help those in need.
The real-world uses for these updates are clear: Let's say you've witnessed some kind of brutal act and you managed to capture it on your phone's video camera. These videos will soon be accepted by these next generation call centers, and there's little doubt, they'll be admissible in court proceedings. Furthermore, with all of the geodata these devices produce, knowing exactly where a person is when they call a 9-1-1 center is paramount.
Genachowski expands this idea even further:
With NG9-1-1, dispatchers could access hospital capacity data, real-time road and traffic conditions, and video of the crash scene from traffic cameras to decide who to dispatch and where crash victims should be transported.
While there's been no rollout date announced, the FCC does want to fast-track these updates. Once the infrastructure is in place to support these additions, the 9-1-1 experience will be much more robust and accurate.
Maybe so much so, it will quell misguided riots caused by youngsters with too much time and boredom on their hands.