Gov't Pushes Dispatch Centers to Accept 911 Text Messages

Updated: 07/30/2013 7:34 AM By: Tom Durian

The Federal Communications Commission says 70 percent of all 911 calls are made on cell phones.

That's one of the reasons the federal government is pushing cell phone companies and 911 call centers across the country to accept incoming texts for emergencies as well.

In the Twin Cities, the Metropolitan Emergency Services Board (MESB) is overseeing the implementation of 911 text services in nine metro counties.

Pete Eggimann, the director of 911 Services for MESB, says texting 911 can come in handy during certain types of emergencies.

"The stories that you hear about the most are someone that's in a situation where they can't make any noise. Someone has broken into the house and they are hiding in the closet and they don't want to say anything but they could text," Eggimann said.

According to the Department of Public Safety, right now none of the dispatch centers in the state of Minnesota can accept or respond to 911 texts.

Eggimann says it will likely be 2015 before the infrastructure will be in place to handle the texts.

Since July 1, 2013, the major cell phone carriers will now send a "bounce-back" or auto-reply message to anyone who texts 911. The message says, "Please make a voice call to 911. There is no text service available at this time."

Eggimann points to a growing number of hearing impaired people who have switched to using cell phone texting for communication as another reason for the change.

He says, "They have almost completely switched over from using their TTY or text telephone device, and now they are using text messaging on their cell phones. They can do 90 percent of their business on their cell phones but they can't send a text message to 911. And that needs to change because they are isolated."

The FCC has mandated that cell phone companies provide 911 texting abilities by April, 2014.

As of right now, there is no deadline for states or counties to offer the service.

C Click here to read FAQs from the FCC.