Texting 911: King County backs FCC proposal

King County Executive Dow Constantine is backing a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposal that would require all wireless telephone carriers, along with text messaging applications, to be able to deliver emergency 911 text messages in areas where emergency call centers are capable of receiving such communications.

"Our 911 dispatchers already have the equipment to receive text messages, but right now wireless carriers don't provide this service," Constantine said in a news release. "Once they do, we can provide better emergency response to people with hearing or speech disabilities."

While the FCC is pushing for greater integration of this service, the agency advises calling 911 in an emergency is still the best practice.

Text-to-911 will be a benefit to the hearing and speech impaired, or invaluable in a situation where a person may be endangered by making an audible 911 call.

The FCC's new recommendation follows in the footsteps of an announcement made by AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and two national 911 associations that they are planning to to begin "major deployments of text-to-911 service in 2013."

Nationwide availability is expected by May 15, 2014. If text-to-911 is not available in an area, the four major wireless carriers have agreed to implement automated "bounce back" messages. That capability is expected to be fully implemented by June 30, 2013.

King County is ahead of the curve and has been working on improving 911 technology and services over the past several years.

Learn more

For more information on King County's program, visit The proposed FCC rules can be found at


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