Why can't we text 911?

Today is going to mark the beginng of an on and off-again series I am entitling Simple Solutions. These will be random thoughts to make life better. I only ask that you give credit if you go on to make a billion dollars.

Shouldn’t there be a way to text 911? Think about it, if I am hiding from a would-be robber in my house and I have my phone, the last thing I would want to do is audibly tell my name, address, the situation, etc. Now think about a child that is being abused but doesn’t want to let the parent know they are calling 911. I know many would say that this would increase the risk of false text msgs and people playing pranks but I think there could be some safe guards built in where the person texting would have to provide an identifying piece of information like zip code or the color of the house, who knows. Moreover, we could increase the fines/consequences (if there are already) associated with prank calls to 911.  What do you think?

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.



8 responses to “Why can't we text 911?”

  1. Danielle says :

    This is a great idea, especially for domestic violence situations. I tried to brainstorm reasons why this wouldn’t work and I haven’t come up with any.

  2. Billione says :

    LOL. I don’t know how great of an idea this it; I never really thought about it, but I wonder if it would be difficult to authenticate the person behind the text. The difficulty would be placing a specific person behind the text.

    For example, the record calls to 911 and have a voice recorded that can be used to authenticate a person who called. With texting, I could just say “That wasn’t me; I didn’t text.” or “Someone else text you, 911, not me!” And no one would be able to prove otherwise.

    Do we hold the person who owns the phone responsible? What if they have a MetroPCS and didn’t even use their real name? lmao.

  3. Brandon Q. says :


    Unfortunately, people prank call 911 all the time so the question of authentication is something we already deal with, right?

  4. Billione says :

    @Brandon Q.

    Good point.

  5. mark says :

    There are several reasons text to 911 isn’t available.

    1). SMS (text) isn’t real time. Some text messages are processed quickly, some — are not. It is not uncommon for there to be a 2-3 minute delay in SMS message processing, particularly if the text has to cross service provider ‘boundaries’. Would you want to wait 2-3 minutes for a response from 9-1-1?

    2). The goal of 9-1-1 is to know the location of the caller. Most people who call 9-1-1 don’t know their location, which means it must be calculated from the GPS chip or by the wireless network. Current SMS (text) protocols do not contain the caller location.

    There will be text service to 9-1-1, but it will not be widely available until there is funding to pay for the service.

    Many, many states raid their 9-1-1 funds for other government services. Sad but true.

  6. Brandon Q. says :

    Mark, thank you for your very insightful comments. if you don’t mind my asking, what do you do for a living?

  7. mark says :

    I design and build 9-1-1 systems, and solve complex public safety issues.

    Your post came up on my google news alert. With my co-workers, we have been working on various text to 9-1-1 projects for about a year., and we’re almost ready for field trials. You’ll know when we are successful… Thanks for the inquiry.

    I RSS’d your blog. I think often of Detroit and the Cadieux Cafe,and all my friends at RenCen – a lot. We’ve done some great work with OnStar.

    Michigan is conducting a feasibility study of how to improve 9-1-1, see: (http://tinyurl.com/pytu8f) Who knows, maybe we’ll get to be a part of progress for Michigan…

  8. verry says :

    i think its a great idea. i actually googled this forum about it because ive gone through some moments that made me wish about this service. is there any way that a person can communicate with 9-1-1 without blowing their cover like mentioned previously???

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