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April 18, 2017

Recognizing the 9-1-1 Community and How Wireless Supports 9-1-1 During National 9-1-1 Education Month .

Recognizing the 9-1-1 Community and How Wireless Supports 9-1-1 During National 9-1-1 Education Month

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Matt Gerst

Calling 9-1-1 from a wireless phone connects you to a lifeline—first a 9-1-1 dispatcher, and then police, firefighters, and EMS responders—all of whom are dedicated to helping others when life is at its scariest. Whether it’s providing CPR instructions over the phone, breaking down doors to get to those in need, or walking into a fire to locate an unresponsive resident, these people are real heroes. And while we should celebrate their bravery and impact every day, they deserve a special thank you this April, which is National 9-1-1 Education Month.

CTIA and the wireless industry are proud to partner with the public safety community to connect wireless 9-1-1 callers to life-saving help. As part of National 9-1-1 Education Month, we want to take this opportunity to share some of our recent efforts to enhance 9-1-1 and protect wireless consumers across the country:

  • Supporting Text to 9-1-1 and Real-Time Text: While calling 9-1-1 is the primary way to communicate with public safety officials, America’s wireless carriers support Text to 9-1-1 and Real-Time Text (RTT) technology—services that can be especially important for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or in a situation where they are unable to speak. Local 9-1-1 call centers choose whether to accept text messages and over 900 of these call centers—known as Public Safety Answering Points—across America are now able to support (or will soon support) Text to 9-1-1. More are added to the FCC’s list every month, so check to see if your area supports Text to 9-1-1 here.
  • Enhancing Wireless 9-1-1 Location Accuracy: CTIA and our member companies are investing and dedicating significant resources to enhance wireless 9-1-1 location accuracy, especially indoors. Our 9-1-1 system is complex, but we’re dedicated to getting it right. By collaborating with the public safety community, we’re developing resources like the 9-1-1 Location Accuracy Technologies Test Bed and National Emergency Address Database to further enhance location accuracy.
  • Ensuring 9-1-1 Funding: 9-1-1 is the national emergency response number, but state and local governments are responsible for 9-1-1 call centers. States and localities primarily fund these call centers by collecting more than $2.6 billion annually in surcharges or fees on your phone bill. Unfortunately, too many states and localities are diverting these critical funds to non-9-1-1 programs—or, in some cases, to simply help balance state budgets. CTIA appreciates the attention this issue has gotten from policymakers, but more should be done to ensure that states stop diverting funds dedicated for 9-1-1 purposes, and we are working to educate states on the importance of preserving those funds.
  • Supporting Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911): The 9-1-1 system is still based on landline phone technologies from the 20th Century—we need a 9-1-1 system for the 21st Century. CTIA supports efforts to move the existing 9-1-1 system towards NG911, reflecting how consumers use wireless for voice, video, text and pictures today.

In addition to those efforts, CTIA encourages consumers to consider the following best practices when using wireless 9-1-1 services:

  1. Call if you can, text if you can’t
  2. Provide detailed information about your location and, when possible, know where you are
  3. Stay in communication until the call-taker tells you to hang up, even if the call was made in error

Wireless 9-1-1 is one of our most important public safety tools. CTIA knows the critical role the wireless industry plays in connecting those in need with 9-1-1 services, and we respect and applaud the life-saving work that 9-1-1 call takers and the public safety community provide. An effective 9-1-1 program requires citizens, the wireless industry, and the public safety community to work closely together, and CTIA and its member companies are committed to doing our part. 

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