Blogs » Digital Babble » Next Generation 911: Would you text message 911?


Image The changing face of communication technology is one of the reasons many agencies are upgrading their 911 emergency systems from analog to digital. Houston is one of many cities around the nation preparing to incorporate the use of text messaging and cellphone photos and videos into the 911 system known as Next Generation 911.

Next Generation 911, or NG 9-1-1, is a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"Text, data, images, and video are increasingly common in personal communications and are critical to future transportation safety and mobility advances.

However, the 9-1-1 system of the 1970s was created to transmit voice media only and was not designed to handle the challenges of multimedia communication in a wireless, mobile society." 
Via the U.S. Department of Transportation Web site

According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, the Next Generation model is still being "fine tuned", but officials in Houston "plan to complete the development stage by the end of the summer and the transitional planning by the end of November."

No one can deny the popularity of text messaging these days, and that is why many are pushing to move away from the current analog system most 911 systems use, to digital.

"The system we have is built on an analog platform," said Thera Bradshaw, principal with TKC Consulting Group in Los Angeles. "It served the country well for 40 years and was a public policy success, but the infrastructure that is in place is outdated in a mobile, digital world," said Bradshaw, who's a member of a Washington, D.C., trade group called the 911 Industry Alliance, and former president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials.

For instance, during the April 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech that killed 32, students tried to send text messages to 911, Bradshaw said, not realizing that 911 call centers aren't equipped to receive text messages. They also can't handle cell phone photos or streaming video from closed-circuit TV cameras or devices used by the hearing-impaired. Via

I can see the need to incorporate  and adjust to new forms of technology, and am sure some software will assist in the matter,  but I just wonder how hard it will be for 911 dispatchers to decipher all those text messages coming through written in "text speak."

Would you send a text message to 911?

Gtg, kthx bai!