Mobile phone users stuck in a pickle could soon be able to text 999 for help in an emergency as Ofcom suggested a trial of the text service that has been going on should be made mandatory.
In stark contrast to the traditional phone service, users of the text service will have to register first in order to send an emergency text, in effect planning ahead for a possible catastrophe.
The idea has been trialled in the UK for a year and around 14,500 people have registered. The trial mostly attracted deaf and speech-impaired people who find it tricky to use the traditional service and around one emergency text has been sent a day a day requiring attendance by the emergency services for situations such as strokes, heart attacks and childbirth, according to the regulator.
The move reflects a new European law that comes into effect on 25 May which says access to the emergency services for disabled people must be as close to that delivered to other consumers as the technology will allow.
Ofcom said: "While the emergency text scheme does have limitations, such as taking longer to converse by text than by phone, it offers greater equivalence than current alternatives."
The regulator is proposing to safeguard the scheme by making it mandatory for mobile operators to provide it to registered users.
It also reckons that pre-registration for the service will prevent prank texts. According to the website, emergencysms.org.uk, registering "is best done before you need help".
The website urges: "Register your mobile phone now; don't wait until you need the emergencySMS service."
Mrs S, Surrey said: "I was very impressed with the service I was given. It was the first time I tried it out and the service was excellent and very reassuring."
Just like traditional 999 calls, users of the new text service are encouraged to indicate which emergency service they require, what the main problem is and preferably where they are based, although the use of mobiles allows the emergency service to track down a user.