The major cell carriers are unveiling the text-to-911 service which was launched yesterday. Before you rely on the new option, the FCC has sent out warnings that it is up to the 911 call center to adopt the technology. Translation – rely on voice calls unless you know that your area has the service.

A complete rollout of the service across all 9111 centers may take several years. The FCC was quick to release a statement to consumers, warning of this fact.

The Commission has encouraged 911 call centers to begin accepting texts as text providers develop text-to-911 capability. It is up to each 911 call center to decide whether and when to begin accepting texts. Some call centers have started to accept text messages already. We expect that others will do so and that text-to-911 will become available in more areas over time.

Nevertheless, even where text-to-911 is available, consumers should continue to contact 911 by making a voice call if they can, and use text only if voice is not a feasible or safe option.

If you are in an area that does not have the service, you will get a bounce back from your carrier. The text-to-911 service, when fully implemented, will provide an additional safety net for users. You could be in a situation where a voice call puts you in more danger. The text option could work to save additional lives in domestic violence situations and other situations where a text is the more feasible route.

The carriers that have the service are the major four. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile all announced they were going to have the feature. For now, the regions that have rolled out the service to their call centers include counties in Georgia, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa and Maine. Montana, North Carolina, New York and Ohio are also participating in the rollout.

Another major warning about the feature. In emergencies, a user may forget to include all the pertinent information, such as the address etc. Call centers do not have the capability of tracing the origination of a text message. For medical cases, it is better to get on the phone with the 911 operator. It ensures that first responders get to your home or business.

The text option is a great feature, but users need to be prepared to offer more information, and be aware if their local call center accepts the messages. It may be a case of waiting for a full rollout before you roll the dice on a new technology.

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