back to article 'My house is on fire m8 lol' ... 911 texting tested in the US

Injured, on fire, or under fire citizens can now text the emergency services in a new pilot program in the US. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said that it had selected a number of (primarily rural) areas to trial the service, in which citizens can send texts to 911 in order to notify police and fire departments of …

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More importantly

SMS messages will often get through in poor reception areas and the phone will keep trying until it sends it. There have been lots of cases of people lost at sea / in mountains etc - texting friends to call emergency services.

The local mountain rescue here posts a number to SMS because 911 doesn't support it.

There was one case where somebody in the Caribbean texted the pub in the UK to call 999 to get them to call the local coast guard because he couldn't get a voice signal

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Re: More importantly

The flip side is you could be waiting 24 hours for it to get the, if at all. Text is a best effort services and is the 1st thing to be dropped under network load.

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Re: More importantly

Actually on GSM if the signal improves enough for SMS to send, a voice call will work. 3G is a bit more complicated.

4G doesn't even have real SMS.

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Go

This could also be useful in a kidnapping or home invasion situation where making a voice call would attract too much attention.

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Yes ...

Poor Hannah Foster, for example ...

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What about support for photos and video?

Being able to provide photos and video to the emergency services can be invaluable; such as taking a photo of your surroundings so they can find you much easier, or get a video during a bank robbery so the police have more intelligence on what is going on inside.

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Alert

Re: What about support for photos and video?

It would be nice to be able to send the police "real-time" photos of people phone-driving. (I mean when I'm on foot, of course.)

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JDX
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Re: What about support for photos and video?

You can just tweet the police :)

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Re: What about support for photos and video?

In the bank robbery case, that sounds like a normal piece of evidence that you should pass to the police during their investigation. For the former, you'd want to establish contact first - if you're able to send them a photo, you would presumably tell them this, and they would provide a way for you to do so if they feel it would help.

(Also, if your smartphone handles photos and SMS, I would hazard a guess that it is also GPS capable)

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Re: What about support for photos and video?

I meant in the bank robbery situation, you can send the video live to the police so they can get a much better idea of where the criminals are at the time, something that would greatly reduce the chances of an ambush.

As for taking photos, you might be in an area where the phone can't get a GPS fix or the GPS coordinates give the wrong picture. Say for instance you fell down a cliff, following the GPS coordinates might put you on the top of the cliff and getting to the bottom would take a long time. Or are stuck in the basement while the first responders are wasting their time sweeping the rest of the building.

In an emergency, time is of the essence and sending as much information in as little time as possible is extremely helpful

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Re: What about support for photos and video?

Being able to provide photos and video to the emergency services can be invaluable

Especially if geocoding is enabled in the camera app: the photo will have the GPS co-ordinates where it was taken embedded in the EXIF data.

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WTF?

Rural Area Test

Since when is Cook County in Illinois rural???? When I lived in that state, everything but Cook was considered "downstate" and "rural" or even "undeveloped".

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There are some abuse scenarios too

Two things come together to make this a potential problem.

1) emergency calls are the only calls can be made on a stolen phone

2) you can set a cell to send a text without you actually being present.

Put these two together you get a potent weapon for criminals. Steal a few phones, and dump them around town. Program to send texts at specific times to draw police away from your actual crime

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Re: There are some abuse scenarios too

Forget phone calls, the next mobile phone virus can DOS emergency services with SMS. I did not see anywhere (admittedly, I did not look very closely) that this service will support MMS, but I suspect it possible. I wonder when some baddie will DOS 911 services with anonymous SIP calls as well as SMS.

In any case, I see this as a good supplement to 911 calls, but at the same time a phone call can contain valuable investigative information in determining time-line of an event, such as ambient sounds, gun shots, voices of perpetrators and (though we are loath to think it) dying declarations of victims. Perhaps phones could be configured to start a video recording (including audio, of course) once a text is sent to 911.

Or an app. Send a text to 911 and the phone begins sending regular MMS video clips. The idea of recording is good, but the phone has to then be retrieved in order for the video to be useful. Never mind me, just thinking aloud.

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Re: There are some abuse scenarios too

1) How is this a problem with SMS? You are actually making a case in favor of enabling SMS

2) Yes, you can make emergency calls from a stolen cell phone, but not send text messages, let alone the app that would be needed to schedule sending an SMS message

Criminals have been doing this for a long time anyway. The most popular method is to pay homeless people to call emergency services on pay phones. The only thing changed is now you can hand homeless people the stolen phones. Nothing you've said effects adding SMS service for emergency services, not even if you post it three times and once as AC.

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Anonymous Coward

There are some abuse scenarios too

Two things come together to make this a potential problem.

1) emergency calls are the only calls can be made on a stolen phone

2) you can set a cell to send a text without you actually being present.

Put these two together you get a potent weapon for criminals. Steal a few phones, and dump them around town. Program to send texts at specific times to draw police away from your actual crime

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I remember Katrina

After Katrina, cellular service was almost non-existent. SMS was often the only successful method if communication for many days. Of course, keeping a mobile phone charged was another matter.

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Anonymous Coward

Useful

This can be useful if not abused by arseholes.

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Meanwhile . . .

So, you've made contact an an ambulance is on the way -

"We realise your call is important to you and we are doing all we can to ensure you have the best service possible. While you are waiting the arrival of our customer support vehicle, here are some pictures of cats."

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Re: Meanwhile . . .

Wait until they privatise it.

Press one if you are a premium member, press to to hear about other NHS services, press 3 to check your account balance

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Trollface

Re: Meanwhile . . .

Wait, are you talking about ObamaCare?

Victim -> "Sm1 brk in2 hm husband shot I'm hiding in basement"

911 -> "Police on the way; does your husband have bronze, silver, gold, or platinum Healthcare plan?"

Victim -> "WTF?"

911 -> "We can only send an ambulance if he has a Gold plan or above. If he has lower, please enter your credit card number or verify your DREAM status."

Victim -> "FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!"

Okay, okay. This may seem to denigrate our emergency and health services, but that is not the case at all. In fact, it is to poke at some of the stupid regulations and requirements our providers have put upon them for various situations and scenarios.

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Joke

Re: Meanwhile . . .

> Wait until they privatise it.

> Press one if you are a premium member, press to to hear about other NHS services, press 3 to check your account balance

...please remember to end your text with NO INFO if you do not wish to receive valuable messages...

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SMS

It's not interactive.

It's not real time.

No assurance of delivery at all ever nor within any time period.

The only time SMS works and Voice doesn't is if you can't talk or phone broken. SMS can be added, but should only be used if voice is unavailable.

SMS isn't like online chat.

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Haven't they seen The IT Crowd?

I'm sure texting emergency services would look a bit like this:

Moss: Dear Sir/Madam: I am writing to inform you of a fire which has broken out at the premises of... no, that's too formal...

Dear Sir/Madam: Fire! Fire! Help me! 123 Carrendon Road. Looking forward to hearing from you!

All the best,

Maurice Moss

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