Coming soon to a carrier near you: the long-awaited ability for anyone to text 9-1-1. Now that the agreement between the FCC and the four largest wireless carriers (AT&T, Sprint-Nextel, T-Mobile, Verizon), along with NENA and APCO, is in place to make text-to-9-1-1 services available nationally by May 2014, it’s time for PSAPs to start figuring out how to make texting to 9-1-1 a reality.
Adding text capability to 9-1-1 systems requires some significant planning and preparation. Policies and procedures must change, additional resources will be required and the public will need to be educated as new capabilities are implemented. All of this won’t happen overnight, yet there’s little question that despite all the moving parts, it will transform emergency response for good.
Text to 9-1-1 adds a lifesaving alternative when 9-1-1 voice service is unavailable or when placing a voice call could put the caller in danger. It also gives the more than 40 million Americans with hearing or speech disabilities another means of communication. And as recent history has shown with super storm Sandy, text messaging is often the most reliable form of communication during disasters when carrier networks may suffer coverage or capacity issues.
But more importantly, text-to-9-1-1 functionality marks a crucial step in the transition of legacy 9-1-1 systems to Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) platforms, which will allow citizens to not only text 9-1-1, but also send photos, videos and data. This ability to receive new types of information from the public will enable PSAPs everywhere to provide additional timely, relevant information to help keep first responders safe and help them do their jobs better.
Can you hear the clock ticking? The steps you take now will ensure you can enable this capability once your local wireless carrier can support it. According to the FCC, one-third of citizens believe they can send texts to 9-1-1 today. You need to be ready to meet that growing expectation head-on.
Today is your tipping point. The journey to all that NG9-1-1 promises to deliver officially starts now.
Bill Mertka is NG9-1-1 Solutions Strategist with Motorola Solutions. Read additional blogs by Bill Mertka here.
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Did you ever let your driver's license expire? A few years ago, I spent most of my birthday waiting at the motor vehicle bureau because I had forgotten to renew my license. Instead of enjoying cake with my family, I stood in line waiting to have my picture taken. The mug shot was awful, but the peace of mind was awesome. I didn’t have to worry about being pulled over and getting fined for operating illegally.
If you missed the January 1, 2013 deadline to narrowband your VHF or UHF radio network, you’re now operating with an expired FCC license. If you’re caught, the potential fines are a lot more than you’ll pay for a traffic violation.
Do You Know Why I Pulled You Over?
The FCC will start enforcing the narrowbanding mandate soon. Are you thinking you won’t be caught for operating illegally in the wideband mode? Would you be more inclined to act if you were worried about being pulled over? Here’s what could happen if FCC enforcement bureau personnel were authorized to make traffic stops.
FCC officer: Do you know how wide you were going?
You: I was just keeping up with traffic. Excuse me, did you say how wide?
FCC officer: I clocked you at 25 kHz in a 12.5 kHz zone. What’s the expiration date on you license?
You: November 2013 – it’s still valid.
FCC officer: Not your driver’s license, the FCC license for your radio system
You: Let me check . . . Oh, it looks like it expired on January 1st.
FCC officer: Yes, you’re operating illegally in the wideband mode. I have the authority to fine you up to $16,000 and shut down your radio system.
Excuses Won’t Get You Off the Hook
Have you ever tried to talk your way out of a traffic ticket? The police officer who pulled you over has heard “I was just keeping up with traffic” and “I didn’t know about the law” hundreds of times. If you’re caught driving twice the speed limit, your excuses won’t stop the officer from issuing a citation that could keep you off the road.
Excuses won’t help you convince an FCC enforcement officer to let you off the hook. He or she doesn’t care that your neighbor is still using wideband radios or that you didn’t have time to comply with the 2004 narrowbanding ruling that gave you eight years to update your system. If you’re operating at twice the posted bandwidth, your excuses won’t stop the FCC from initiating action that could take you off the air.
It’s Time to Go Straight – and Narrow
The January 1, 2013 deadline has passed but the requirement to narrowband hasn’t. If you’re still operating in the wideband mode, you should take action now to go straight and narrow. You’ll need to narrowband your system to 12.5 kHz operation by reprogramming or replacing equipment and also get your license modified. Check the narrowbanding resources on the Motorola Solutions website if you need help determining how to upgrade your radios and infrastructure.
You won’t have to wait in line at the DMV to update your radio license. The first step is to go online and file a waiver application to let the FCC know you’re in the process of modifying your radios. If your waiver’s approved, you’ll still have to modify your equipment, but you’ll have permission to operate in the wideband mode a little longer.
So don’t wait until your birthday to update your FCC license. Narrowbanding your system isn’t a piece of cake, but taking action now means you’ll have the peace of mind you can’t be “pulled over” for operating your radio system illegally.
Rick Pollak is a Business Development Manager for Motorola Solutions, Inc.