News : Bill Would Require Emergency Call Centers to Receive Text Messages
Trenton, NJ, Sept 18, 2014 -- A bill that would require facilities that handle 911 calls to accept emergency text messages was approved by the state Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee this morning.
Sponsors said the legislation (A3461) will help those with "communication disabilities," as well as people in emergency situations that require them to be discrete.
"Some emergency situations require a less obvious call for help," said Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington), a sponsor. "It can be especially vital in domestic violence situations, or situations involving children and seniors. Expanding existing law to include the option to text 9-1-1 will protect more residents in more emergency situations."
The push mirrors one at the federal level. The Federal Communication Program is promoting a program called "Text-to-911," but according to its website, the service is not yet available in New Jersey. The commission adopted a rule in August to require all cell phone companies enable Text-to-911.
"There are times when it’s not possible, or even dangerous to make a phone call," said Assemblyman David Rible (R-Monmouth), another sponsor. "If an intruder is in your house, texting for help is probably the safest means of notifying emergency personnel of your situation."
Rible said the Monmouth County Office of Emergency Management's new 911 call center is equipped to receive texts, though it hasn't begun to yet. He wasn't sure if any other centers in the state had the technology.
Cell phone users already pay a 90 cent monthly fee to fund the 911 system. Under the bill, that fee would be increased to 99 cents to cover the necessary upgrades.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Friday, September 19, 2014