Senator Guglielmo Says Cell Phones Should Include 911 Text Messaging

November 18, 2009

Says technology would provide additional avenue for emergency communication

State Senator Tony Guglielmo, R-Stafford, today said that all wireless carriers should include a mechanism that would allow people to text 911 in the event of an emergency. At a public hearing before the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee today, where Sen. Guglielmo serves as Ranking Member, the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS) along with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) testified that the Public Safety Data Network, which is being built by the state, would support this technology. However, the technology currently available to the wireless companies is still in the experimental stages and currently only tied to one carrier.

“One of the responsibilities we have is to make sure that the public has every possible mechanism available to contact authorities should an emergency arise. My belief is that 911 text messaging would provide an additional avenue for communication,” said Sen. Guglielmo. “While getting everyone (from the wireless carriers to the state) in sync technologically will take time, it seems to be heading in the right direction and I believe we can make this work.”

Sen. Guglielmo pointed to the case of Alice Morrin, the Vernon resident who was the victim of a murder- suicide earlier this year involving her husband. In that case, Morrin text messaged a friend urging him to call police just moments before she was killed. Sen. Guglielmo is not suggesting that the outcome of that case would have been any different had she been able to text 911 directly, rather he believes the text option would give people another way to contact for help in the case of an emergency.

DPS Commissioner John Danaher III indicated that the state will have the capability to receive text 911 messages by late 2011, but it could take the industry more time to implement a system that works efficiently. All those on hand at today’s hearing agreed that the ability to text 911 should have the same capability of the voice 911 call in which automatic number identification and location identification are included.

“Making a 911 voice call goes to an entirely different system than all other phone calls. The same needs to be done with a text 911 system. It’s not as easy as sending a simple text, there is a lot more that goes into making a text 911 system safe and efficient,” said Sen. Guglielemo. “With more and more people texting, if there is a way it can be done then, to me, it makes sense that 911 text messaging be made available.”