Vermont becomes first US state to provide SMS access to 911 emergency services

USNews As Texting 911 Capability expands more can call for help in an emergency without the need to make a call

David Tucker, executive director of Vermont’s Enhanced 911 Board, …says the state is the first in the country where customers of the four major wireless carriers can send text messages to 911… …Now, in a big step toward moving the nation’s emergency dispatch system out of voice-only technology that dates to the 1960s, four major wireless phone companies are providing the services to local governments that want it and have the capability to use it. Local governments in 16 states are using it, according to the Federal Communications Commission, and Vermont became the first to offer the technology statewide Monday… …The FCC has required all service providers to offer it by the end of the year. Brian Fontes, the chief executive officer of the Virginia-based National Emergency Number Association, said the four major carriers offering text-to-911 is “a big deal.” He said that 911 texting is part of a broader push to use technology to enhance the information that can be provided to emergency responders and to put emergency call centers on an equal footing with the technology many people carry in their pockets… …The FCC tells people to limit texts for help to circumstances when voice calls can’t be made, such as for the deaf or hard of hearing, or in domestic violence cases or at other times when it’s not safe to speak

Although they’ve had ESMS available in the UK since 2009 it’s great to see this progressing at last in the USA with a focus on supporting Patients who are deaf or hard of hearing as the FCC had initially been communicating the value with criminality use cases that I personally felt wouldn’t be very conducive to gaining this important mHealth innovation the traction it deserves.

As US critics warn against the hype of ‘mHealth mania’ it should be very encouraging to read that although there have so far only been 34 text messages made to the service (‘compared to the 208,000 911 voice calls in Vermont last year‘) the service has already ‘saved at least one life after dispatchers received a text about a suicide‘.

5kb of data sent across a mobile network saves a life! How about that for a mHealth Return on Investment (ROI)? How can organisations such as the Samaritans justify their premium rate telephone line when all the evidence shows that many of the most vulnerable want to use SMS?

Vermont has got all network ESMS services working first, your move California!

Related posts:

Is the Telecom regulator OFCOM going to out innovate you (Samaritans)

London Fire Brigade looks to Social Media BEFORE SMS and MMS

Will Family Plans drive M2M mHealth adoption?

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