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Texting 999 could become the norm

by Sarah Griffiths on 24 February 2011, 15:04

Tags: Ofcom

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A&E

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.



HEXUS Forums :: 15 Comments

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So the emergency services call centre can look forward to thousands of "I HAZ AN EM3RGENCIEZ, LOLZ" messages from the normal array of fools that would normally call them asking the time / reporting lost umbrellas etc??
Who would text in an emergency? D:

I know whenever we've needed emergency services we've called them so that we know when they're on their way and to make sure it gets through, if the system failed how would you know? At least if you ring them, you're speaking to an operator so you know the message has been relayed to them...

Even if the last time we called them we had to do it twice, as no-one had turned up after ~20 minutes and we had someone bleeding out on the floor with a head injury with someone trying to compress the wound and others trying to keep her awake and talking...
I've got this vision of Moss from the IT Crowd emailing the fire brigade.
Not only that, but have these people ever had to use a phone in an emergency/? Some (most) people panic so much they can't figure out how to take the key lock off their phone, which is why you can dial 999 without doing so, never mind having to type out a text! I can see how it would be useful for someone who can't speak/hear but wouldn't it be better to just give those people a panic button? And even if you call and say nothing, it will be investigated anyway...
I think it's a good idea. One more way to communicate between people whatever the reason.