911 Will Accept Multimedia Alerts

Reporting an injury, disaster or threat is no longer limited to stating your name, address and the nature of the emergency; the 911 emergency response system will soon be adopting a more visual element.

An update to 911 technology will enable the transmission of text messages, videos, photos and automatic location information in addition to standard voice calls.

The five-step plan, announced Wednesday by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, officially named Next Generation 911 (NG911), will enable emergency responders to act more quickly and give individuals the opportunity to send whatever information they can depending on the situation, especially in some disasters in which direct calling is not an option.

Plans for the program began last year, although problems with the standard 911 protocol surfaced before then, when students trapped during the Virginia Tech campus shootings in 2007 could not discreetly text 911 for assistance. The idea that texting has become a more time-efficient and popular means of communication among the younger demographic is also a factor in the transition.

According to a press release from the FCC, the five steps include developing location accuracy mechanisms, enabling people to send texts, photos and videos to public safety answering phones known as NPRM, facilitating and meeting NG911 technical standards, developing a governance framework and developing a funding model.

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