“Help! Somebody text 911!” Chances are this is not a phrase you’ve heard before, and for good reason. According to the National Emergency Numbering Association, out of more than 6,000 emergency call centers in the U.S., fewer than one percent have implemented the technology needed to monitor text messages. However, many people believe that texting emergency call centers for help is an option. For instance, a survey in the Dallas-Fort Worth area last year found that 30 percent of adults between the ages of 19 and 49 believe they can text 911. Who can blame them? Text messaging has been a popular form of communication for nearly two decades.
Though a simple channel like SMS should have been widely implemented years ago, the aforementioned one percent of response centers that monitor text messages are the only ones prepared to answer cries that may have gone unanswered. The importance of being able to text 911 goes beyond convenience and becomes a question of safety. Those who need help may not be in a position to make phone calls, and texting may be their only option to convey their distress to emergency responders. So why haven’t the vast majority of emergency call centers updated their technology to handle one of the most popular forms of communication? The process and cost of adding this feature to 911 call centers has been said to be a fairly simple upgrade. The real challenge is a larger upgrade – from call center to contact center – and training agents to handle the new protocols and procedures that come with new channels. In the case of 911 call centers, an upgrade is vastly overdue.
Fortunately, a recent initiative undertaken by the top four wireless carriers in the U.S. will allow for text-to-911 capabilities by May 15, 2014, according to a statement from the Federal Communications Commission released last December. Now, it’s up to the response centers to ensure they have the proper equipment, software, and training to handle incoming emergency text messages.
We are proud to offer the type of technology that allows emergency call centers to quickly and easily transform into true multichannel contact centers across voice, text and even email, chat and social media. This, in turn, will provide them with access to a number of communications channels so that emergency responders can assist those in need, no matter how they reach out for help.
– Ann Ruckstuhl, SVP and CMO