Cell phone owners may have the option to send a text message to 911 in emergency situations by the end of the year, but Grayson County first responders are apprehensive about whether this service will be a help or a hindrance.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the text-to-911 service - which is the ability to send a text message to reach 911 emergency call takers from a mobile phone or device - will, in the future, be widely available in the United States.
On January 30 of this year, the FCC adopted a policy statement and a second FNPRM stating the goal that all wireless telephone companies and providers of interconnected text messaging services should enable consumers to send text messages to 911.
The FCC has also proposed rules that would require all text messaging providers to support text-to-911 by December 31 of this year.
Currently, however, the service only offered in limited capacity in a few states and markets. The service is not yet available in Kentucky.
Grayson County Sheriff Rick Clemons said, currently, he’s unsure of the technology.
Clemons said he supports any type of communication that helps people get emergency help, but his primary concern relates to the county’s current “spoofing” problem that he worries may escalate if 911 texting became available.
Spoofing is the act of using an application to disguise one’s phone number on a caller-ID.
Clemons said if there were a way to ensure the number belongs to a 100 percent identifiable cell phone, the location of which could also be triangulated, he would be less apprehensive of the prospect of 911 texting.
“There are a lot of ramifications,” said Clemons. “It could be beneficial, but there are a lot of things that need to be worked out.”
The logical next step after 911 texting being the ability to send photos or video to 911 call takers, and Clemons said he’s unsure of how beneficial that service would be also.
On the prospect of texting a photo or video to emergency responders, Clemons said he has concerns about individuals’ exploiting and publicizing an emergency situation by posting photos or videos on social media before first responders have the opportunity to contact loved ones.
Assistant Leitchfield Chief of Police David Riley also expressed concern regarding the service, particularly in regards to texting and driving, which he worries may increase were 911-texting available.
“Texting and driving is deadly,” Riley said. “It has no good consequences…911 texting will complicate the current law that says, ‘No texting and driving.’”
Riley said he feels that having the option of texting 911 in an emergency situation when individuals are not operating a vehicle is “great;” however, because the 911 texting service would be available to people operating vehicles, and the texting and driving law is so difficult to enforce, he does not think the service should be offered without further study.
James Stover, a follower of The Grayson County News-Gazette on Facebook, agreed with Riley and said he believes 911 texting “is an accident just waiting to happen.”
The Grayson County News-Gazette posed the question of whether offering the 911 texting service would be worth the extra cost that might arise were it offered.
In response to the question, Kim Downs Brewer said she feels there could be better uses for the money, such as improving the lives of the homeless and the hungry, or bettering education.
Tresa Hayes and Jeremy Logsdon both said they feel the text-to-911 service would be beneficial, however.
Currently, it is not yet known if and/or when 911 texting will be available to Grayson County residents. For more information regarding the text-to-911 service, visit www.fcc.gov.