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New FCC Program Lets You Text 911 in an Emergency Though not yet nationally available, text-to-911 could change how we ask for help.

By Nina Zipkin

entrepreneur daily

Mobile has influenced how we work and play, and now it will affect how we ask for help in an emergency. This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began rolling out their Text-to-911 program supported by major mobile carriers Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T.

While the capability will be helpful in situations when making a call isn't safe or for those who are unable to hear or speak, the program won't be immediately available everywhere, as call centers across the country plan for the logistics and additional training needed to handle an influx of text messages. The FCC's current target date to require all text providers to support the Text-to-911 program is December 31, 2014.

Related: Our Collective Mobile Security Blind Spot

The counties where it is offered now are using only one mobile provider. If the service isn't available and someone does send a text, the FCC requires the wireless companies to send a bounce-back message to let them know.

So how does it work? You would type the emergency in the text and have to be sure to include your location. (Unlike a landline which would allow emergency services to pinpoint your address, the feature isn't yet supported on the mobile platform for 911 calls.) And for now, the program only supports texts, not images or videos.

Related: Watch Out: Here's Where Your Smartphone Is Most Likely to Get Stolen (Infographic)

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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