911 and Text-to-911
When dialing 911, your Southern Linc phone may be a real lifesaver!
Today, 911 service is a vital part of our nation's emergency response and disaster preparedness system. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken steps to increase public safety by encouraging and coordinating development of a nationwide, seamless communications system for emergency services.
In order to deliver emergency help more quickly and effectively, wireless carriers and public safety entities are upgrading the 911 network on a regular basis. For example, most 911 systems now automatically report the telephone number and location of emergency calls made from phones, a capability called Enhanced 911, or E911.
The FCC also requires wireless telephone carriers to provide 911, E911, and text-to-911 capability, where a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) requests it. Wireless E911 will provide location information for emergency calls from wireless phones. Text-to-911 allows callers to send SMS text messages to PSAPs.
All new phones sold by Southern Linc are GPS-capable, which means there is a chip in the phone that will help provide location information to a PSAP when a caller dials 911. The GPS capability becomes active after calling 911 when the network prompts the phone for coordinates.
Wireless E911 Phase I
Wireless E911 Phase I requires wireless carriers to provide emergency response agencies with the telephone number of a wireless caller and the location of the tower site that received the call in order to help them dispatch assistance to the 911 caller.
Wireless E911 Phase II
Wireless E911 Phase II requires wireless carriers to provide the telephone number and far more precise location information-- in most cases, within 410 feet or 135 yards. Southern Linc customers must have a GPS capable phone in order for the approximate location of the caller to be sent to the 911 operator. Wireless E911 Phase II service is only available if the applicable 911 Center has upgraded its equipment.
Wireless E911 and Text-to-911 Coverage Map
Please note there are areas within the Southern Linc coverage area where only basic 911 calling is available because the 911 centers have not yet enabled Wireless E911 Phase I or II or Text-to-911 service.
Even in areas where E911 Phase I or II service is present there are a number of factors that can affect the accessibility of location information so a caller should always provide their location if possible to the 911 operator.View an Enlarged Image of the Map
Using your Southern Linc Data Device to Call 911
Your router, modem, or other data equipment (whether fixed or mobile) may be capable of serving as a Wi-Fi hotspot (“Wi-Fi Equipment”). This feature lets other devices access the Internet through your network connection. Handsets enabled with Wi-Fi calling may connect and complete calls using your Wi-Fi Equipment, though log-in credentials for access may be required. Whenever possible, any 911 caller using a handset connected to your Wi-Fi Equipment should use the handset’s carrier network, and not your Wi-Fi Equipment network connection, to dial 911 in an emergency and provide the 911 operator with his/her location.
If a 911 caller does dial 911 using your Wi-Fi Equipment network connection, these 911 calls made over Wi-Fi may disconnect, be delayed or unsuccessful, may not connect to any emergency services provider or the appropriate emergency services provider, and may not be able to identify the caller’s identity, device, telephone number, or location. To facilitate appropriate 911 call routing, you must register the physical address of your Wi-Fi Equipment including any requisite building, apartment, floor, suite, or unit number (“Dispatchable Location”). This Dispatchable Location may be used to help locate 911 callers. You must keep the Dispatchable Location of your Wi-Fi Equipment up to date.
Limitations of TTY calls to 911 Emergency Services over Wi-Fi
You should be aware that TTY does not work on voice calls that are placed over Wi-Fi. TTY calls, including, without limitation, TTY calls to 911, cannot be made using IP-based calling, including Wi-Fi calling. If you have a communication disability and need to call 911 while using IP-based calling, we recommend that you use an alternative means of communicating utilizing IP-based Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) such as IP Relay or Video Relay Services (VRS). Additionally, you may send a text message to 911 directly, where text-to-911 is available.
SMS TEXT-TO-911: Call if you can. Text if you can’t.
Southern Linc transmits emergency 911 texts to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) when they are capable and ready to receive text messages. Southern Linc provides text-to-911 to many PSAPs across our coverage area. Text-to-911 is only implemented where PSAPS are capable of receiving text-to-911 and have notified Southern Linc that they are ready to implement. This solution is an interim one until such time as Next Generation 9-1-1 solutions are available. However, if it is safe for you to dial 911, please do so. Text 911 when it is your only option.
You must have an SMS plan or a data plan with Southern Linc to text to 911 in the areas where PSAPs are able to receive texts.
As indicated in the map above, a limited number of PSAPs in Southern Linc’s coverage area have enabled receipt of texts-to-911 at this time. Some PSAPs have enabled the preferred IP-based text-to-911 solutions. However, other PSAPs have opted to receive texts-to-911 via the TTY solution, which has flaws. Among other limitations, the TTY solution is very slow; it has limited character sets; it has a number of error handling issues; and most of today’s text savvy wireless users have not encountered this technology. Nevertheless, Southern Linc will implement the needed capabilities within six months of notice from any of the remaining PSAPs once they are ready and capable of receiving texts to 911.
Links to more Interim SMS Text-to-911 Information:
Federal Communications Commission
What You Need to Know About Text-to-911
National Emergency Number Association, the 9-1-1 Association
SMS Text-to9-1-1 Resources for PSAPs & 9-1-1 Authorities
National 911 Program
Next Generation 911 (NG911)
West Safety Services
Next-Generation 9-1-1: The Essential Guide to Getting Started
Frequently Asked Questions
What does it mean that text-to-911 is an interim solution?
Short Message Service (SMS) Text-to-911 is how the solution is widely known. In 2011, the FCC acknowledged the technical limitations of SMS and called it a short-term solution:
SMS is essentially a store-and-forward messaging service that is not designed to provide immediate or reliable message delivery; does not support two-way real-time communication; does not provide the sender’s location information; and does not support the delivery of other media such as photos, video, and data. All of these factors appear to make SMS inappropriate as a long-term text-to-911 solution and warrant caution in encouraging it as a short-term solution. When PSAPs fully adopt Next Generation 911, the text-to-911 solution will no longer be interim.
How will I know which PSAPs are accepting texts to 911?
The FCC maintains a list of the PSAPs that have implemented interim SMS text-to-911 solutions. It may be found at https://www.fcc.gov/files/text-911-master-psap-registryxlsx.
See the map above for Southern Linc areas offering text-to-911 service.
If I send a text-to-911, how will I know the local PSAP received the text?
First, you must have an SMS plan or a data plan with Southern Linc to able to send a text to 911 in the areas where PSAPs are able to receive texts. If the local PSAP received your text, you should receive a text from the local PSAP. If the local PSAP is not accepting texts or the service is not available for another reason, you will receive a “bounce back” message that will tell you the service is not available so you should call 911. Remember: Call if you can; text if you can’t.
How does the TTY solution work?
All PSAPs have at least one TTY machine; it looks like a traditional typewriter. Its function is to permit persons with a disability, such as blindness or deafness, to communicate with the PSAP. The PSAP’s TTY machine will get a message that a text to 911 has been received. The PSAP will type a message back to the sender. The sender has to wait to get the message before the sender can respond. (The technical term for this functioning is half duplex.) As noted above, communicating via TTY can be slow, so let the PSAP know who you are, where you are and what your emergency is, as succinctly as possible.
What are the other interim SMS text-to-911 solutions?
At present, there are two other interim SMS text-to-911 solutions: (1) Web Portal, which uses a terminal with Internet access which must be monitored for incoming text messages; and (2) NG911 Interface, which requires the PSAP to have Internet Protocol (IP) capable equipment and an IP connection to the carrier over whose network the text to 911 is being transmitted. You can learn how these solutions and interim SMS text-to-911 works in a publication produced by the Ad Hoc National SMS Text-9-1-1 Service Coordination Group titled “Interim SMS Text-to-9-1-1 Information and Planning Guide,” version 2, May 2014, which may be found at http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.nena.org/resource/resmgr/Docs/SMS_Text_Info_and_Planning.pdf.
Is there a long-term solution for sending messages to 911?
Wireless carriers, their vendors, the FCC, public safety organizations, and standards setting bodies are working to put in place the standards needed so that Next Generation 911 (NG911) solutions can be created and implemented. The FCC told Congress in a 2013 report that NG911 networks will be able “to receive traditional 911 calls, [and] text, data, and video communications from any communications device via IP-based networks,” plus “machine-generated data from telematics applications (e.g., automatic collision notification systems in vehicles), medical alert systems, and sensors and alarms of various types.”
When will the long-term solution be available?
By some estimates, the long-term solution may be more than five years away.
Do I need to sign up for E911 Phase I and II service?
No. When E911 service is deployed in an area by Southern Linc, it is available for all network users in that area.
How do I know whether Phase I or Phase II services have been deployed in a particular area where I'm making wireless calls?
Because there are many 911 Communications Centers across our coverage area, we suggest you contact the 911 Center in your area by calling their non-emergency/administrative phone number (usually found near the front of your local phone book or directory) to determine that agency's ability to receive wireless E911 calls. Check out the E911 coverage map posted on this page as well.
I kept my phone number from a different area of the country. When I dial 911 from my phone, will my call be routed to a nearby 911 center?
Yes. Southern Linc will route your emergency call to the nearest 911 Communications Center, regardless of the phone number assigned to the phone. Be sure to provide your location and ten-digit phone number when asked by a 911 operator.
What should I do if I accidentally dial 911?
If you accidentally dial 911, stay on the line until the 911 operator answers the call. Tell the operator that the call was made by mistake and no emergency assistance is needed.
Tips for 911 calling and preventing unintentional calls
The FCC provides the following tips for people who call 911 from a wireless phone:
- Tell the emergency operator the location of the emergency right away.
- Give the emergency operator your wireless phone number so the operator can call you back if the call gets disconnected.
- If your wireless phone is not "initialized" (meaning you do not have a contract for service with a wireless service provider), and your emergency call gets disconnected, you must call the emergency operator back because the operator does not have your telephone number and cannot contact you.
- Refrain from programming your phone to automatically dial 911 when one button, such as the "9" key, is pressed. Unintentional wireless 911 calls, which often occur when auto-dial keys are inadvertently pressed, cause problems for emergency call centers.
- If your wireless phone came pre-programmed with the auto-dial 911 feature already turned on, turn off this feature. Check your user manual to find out how.
- Lock your keypad when not using your wireless phone. This action also prevents accidental calls to 911.
- Create a contact in your wireless phone's memory with the name "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) listing the phone numbers of people who should be notified if there is an emergency.