NBC’s Today is the most recent in a wave of television shows, newspapers, and public officials to call attention to the crisis facing 9-1-1:
“In this age of instant messaging, only a handful of 9-1-1 centers can receive text messages.”
The recent tragic events in Orlando have highlighted the dramatic need to be able to communicate with 9-1-1 via text message. One victim, Eddie Justice, hid in the bathroom at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, as gunshots rang out around him, and texted his mother to ask for help:
“Call police,” he wrote. “I’m gonna die.”
Moments later, he texted again: “Call them mommy. Now. He’s coming.”
Justice was one of several victims who texted friends and family members to call 9-1-1 for them, not wanting to draw too much attention by making a telephone call themselves. No one inside Pulse could text 9-1-1 directly because Orlando dispatcher centers, like the vast majority of U.S. cities, can’t receive text messages. Of the 6,000 dispatch center across the United States, only about 6% can receive text messages, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
As Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently urged:
“When there’s an emergency, we should be using text messaging to save lives by informing 911 dispatchers of critical details that can guide first responders. Whether it’s a person hiding in a closet during a burglary, or a person with a disability or someone in the midst of something far more sinister, like a mass shooting, a single text could be a godsend that gives law enforcement the upper hand.”
As Sen. Schumer highlights, it’s not only in active-shooter and hostage situations that texting can be a huge help. From home break-ins to individuals with hearing loss to someone facing intimate partner violence, texting can be transformative in emergency situations. It means that people can ask for help, even if they are in a dangerous situation where they need to be discreet or are having a medical crisis that makes it difficult to speak.
Over the past 3.5 years, RapidSOS has worked closely with the 9-1-1 community and leading tech companies to develop ways to transmit enhanced data, including text messages, into any dispatch center in the contiguous United States. The result is the RapidSOS Haven app, the world’s first robust data link into 9-1-1 dispatch centers, which enables universal one-way texting (user to 9-1-1), as well as transmitting GPS location, emergency type, and medical and demographic data.
RapidSOS already has the solution that so many are calling for: the ability to universally text 9-1-1 in an emergency. With RapidSOS’ advanced technology, vital information is sent to first responders to find you faster, when it matters most.