FCC rules require text messaging providers to enable the public to text 911 in areas where the 911 call center (known as a Public Safety Answering Point, or PSAP) requests text-to-911 service.
The FCC's text-to-911 requirements apply to wireless carriers and "interconnected" text messaging providers (i.e., those which enable consumers to send text messages to and from U.S. phone numbers). Once a PSAP requests text-to-911 service, these text messaging providers must deploy the service in that area within six months.
Best Practices and Resources for PSAPs' Implementation of Text-to-911
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 and their governing bodies 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.
The Commission recognizes that PSAPs have a range of options to consider in implementing text-to-911 processing in the call center. The Commission has proposed a set of near-term solutions that would allow non-NG 911 capable PSAPs to handle text messages without requiring significant up-front investments or upgrades, including the use of web browsers, gateway centers, conversion of text messages to TTY calls, and state or regional aggregation of text-to-911 processing.
A number of resources are available for PSAPs considering implementing text-to-911.
A national SMS text-to-911 stakeholder group, facilitated by NENA, has prepared an information and planning guideline for PSAPs implementing text-to-911. The NENA Education Committee prepared a consideration document, Frequently Asked Questions and training documents to aid 911 authorities and PSAPs in the decision-making process on when and how to accept text-to-911.
APCO has prepared a White Paper Text Messages in a PSAP Environment, which provides an overview of the technology currently in use to facilitate text messages into a PSAP environment. In addition, APCO's Technology Forum has featured overviews of the technology options available to PSAPs to implement text-to-911, including Text-to-9-1-1 ... Know Your Options
A number of PSAPs have implemented text-to-911 and can provide insight and expertise to other PSAPs considering implementing the service.
State of Vermont Enhanced 9-1-1 Board filed an ex parte, in which it offered a number of "lessons learned" since it implemented text-to-911 in 2012. Vermont has prepared several videos directed at certain groups that might be expected to use text-to-911. The videos can be viewed at Vermont911.
When the North Central Texas Council of Governments introduced text-to-911, it released a video to provide the public with guidance on how best and when to use text-to-911.
- FCC Guide: What You Need to Know About Text-to-911