9-1-1 needs to move into the Internet era.
In today’s Internet-enabled world, most people take for granted their ability to communicate with just about anyone, anywhere, and by any number of means – voice, text, email or through social media such as Facebook or Twitter.
But one essential communications service remains largely trapped in the landline era: 9-1-1.
In many parts of the United States, 9-1-1 is still rooted in the landline-telephone-based infrastructure that gave the system its start in 1968. The texts, videos, images and data now integral to rapid-fire modern communications are beyond the capacity of most 9-1-1 systems. While a concerned citizen could snap a photo of a fleeing suspect on her smartphone and post it to Facebook, she likely can’t share that same photo with a 9-1-1 dispatcher. As of November 2014, just 152 counties in 18 U.S. states even had the capability for citizens to text to 9-1-1.
But a few jurisdictions – such as Iowa and Vermont – have made the leap to Internet-enabled 9-1-1, known as “Next Generation 9-1-1.” The potential rewards include not just better public safety but cost savings in the long run.