911

Key Points

From location-awareness to sharing texts, images, video and voice, wireless services enhance how first responders approach and handle emergencies. It is essential that public safety functions are sufficiently funded, including upgrades and enhancements to technology.  

  • Enhanced 911 (E-911): Technology that complements the interaction between the public and first responders, ensuring all calls are forwarded to a call center and transmitting information, including location, to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).
  • Text-to-911 services are increasingly offered by wireless providers to ensure wireless users' texts are sent to PSAPs that requested to receive texts.
    • If text-to-911 services aren't available in the area, consumers will receive a "bounce back" message instructing them to call 911.
    • CTIA reminds consumers that calling 911 and talking to the dispatchers is still the preferred way to seek help during an emergency.
  • Next Generation 911 (NG911): A public safety, wireless industry and policymaker initiative to update the 911 infrastructure to allow PSAPs to receive voice, text, video and multimedia messages.
    • CTIA and our member companies are working closely with public safety and policymakers on the long term NG911 project. 

To ensure these life-saving technologies are available in every PSAP in the U.S., it’s important that funds collected for 911 services go toward their intended purpose. Unfortunately, some states raid these 911 funds for other purposes, which negatively impacts the public and first responders of these critically important services. CTIA supports federal legislation that would prevent states from this misguided practice.

CTIA Position

Wireless services are an essential safety tool since consumers may access 911 services when needed. Considering more than 38 percent of American households are wireless-only, it’s unsurprising that more than 400,000 911 calls are made from wireless devices every day. CTIA continues to support the FCC’s “all calls” rule for 911 and E-911 services, which ensures all calls are forwarded to a PSAP.

The wireless industry continues to work with the public safety community to provide E-911 services and technologies compatible with wireless broadband. Thanks to wireless companies’ innovation and investment, including billions of dollars to upgrade wireless networks, 97 percent of PSAPs have E-911 location capabilities, which exceeds the FCC’s requirements.

While text-to-911 represents an invaluable public safety tool, voice calls are always preferred as it relays the best information quickly, and most areas do not yet support multimedia messages such as texts, videos and images.

When in an emergency situation, follow these simple steps when calling 911 from a wireless device:

  • Stay calm and speak clearly.
  • Tell the 911 call taker the specific location of the emergency (address, street intersection, landmarks, highway mile marker), your cellphone number, the nature of the emergency and the type of assistance needed.
  • Stay on the line until the 911 call taker has obtained all of the necessary information.
  • If the signal is lost and you are disconnected, call back immediately.
  • If you are in a moving vehicle when calling 911 from a cellphone, stop the vehicle. It is difficult to obtain all of the information needed if you are moving further away from the emergency.
Last Updated: November 2013

Related Videos

Text-to-911: What is Your Emergency?
Learn about the development and adoption of text-to-911 service, and what it means for consumers.
Location-Accuracy: Finding Those in Need
CTIA Assistant Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Brian Josef discusses how wireless assists 911 operators, the current state of location services and the future of E911.
Lessons from E-911
Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s Phil Montgomery discusses lessons learned from the transition to E-911.
Text-to-911 Challenges
Sprint's Charles McKee discusses the challenges of Text-to-911 services.
FCC Spectrum Perspective
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel talks about the importance of a timetable for spectrum auctions.
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