Dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency is about to get easier. The FCC is looking to revamp the life-saving rescue service by adding text messaging and live video streaming capabilities, reports Wired. 70 percent of the service’s 230 million calls each year come from mobile phones, but it is only able to support voice calls.
“The technological limitations of 9-1-1 can have tragic, real-world consequences,” an FCC press release said. “During the 2007 Virginia Tech campus shooting, students and witnesses desperately tried to send texts to 9-1-1 that local dispatchers never received. If these messages had gone through, first responders may have arrived on the scene faster with firsthand intelligence about the life-threatening situation that was unfolding.”
Like the Virginia Tech shootings, there are many instances where it may be easier to text for help rather than call, especially if calling many give away a hiding position. The same goes for other technology, like streaming video. The FCC also plans to integrate On-Star and automatic 911 detection sensors in cars and medical devices. 911 does already have GPS functionality built in, so rescuers know the location of callers, even if they don’t.
The problem wish such propositions is that they’re expensive. Integrating this functionality in all local response centers around the United States will be costly and time consuming. Obtaining proper funding for this task is the first step, but even before that local first responders will be asked what kind of information they’d like to have in a digital 911 service.