How will 911 texting improve or challenge EMS responses?

Read the responses from EMTs and paramedics and add your own in the comment section

The ability to send text messages to 911, possibly including photos or videos, is not far away. With Next Generation 911 emerging across the country, 911 text messaging is closer than you think - and even up and running for some departments.

We asked you to weigh in on how receiving a 911 text message may improve or challenge EMS responses to calls. Here are some of the pros and cons that readers came up with.


Weigh in: How will receiving a 911 text message, possibly including photos or videos, improve EMS response to calls for services? And what are the challenges?

Posted by EMS1 on Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pros of 911 text messaging

1. “A picture is worth a thousand words. A thousand words can really help us plan on how to treat a patient before we arrive.” — Cameron St. Peter

2. “Situations I see this working are those domestic violence situations when they can't make a call.” — Cindy Vermillion Kaufman

3. “FaceTime.” — Cody Robert Shetler

4. “That would be awesome in some cases …  like if a house is being robbed or if you have to show the severity of the situation, I think it would be a great idea!” — Danielle Hicks

5. “At my service we already get texts sent to our phone after the tones drop with an audio recording of the dispatch ... very helpful.” — Joseph Alexander Wooten

6. “Here in Maine, especially in my town, there are areas where cell calls will not go through, but text messages will. Anything that will facilitate communications with the PSAP is worth it.” — Andrew Eckman

7. “I would imagine this could allow people to get help for themselves if they are alone and unable to talk.” — Sarah Gogstetter

8. “Gives you a visual first impression. Could even send short video clips.” — Anthony Correia

9. “Cool as long as there is legal responsibility held for misuse of the system.” — Jill McClure

Cons of 911 text messaging

1. “The single greatest issue will be delay in service. Think about how long the conversation could be when you're asking address, major intersection, township/city in certain areas, apartment vs house, entry code. All this takes a few seconds when you're on a phone call. It will potentially take minutes with text messaging. If we don't know where to respond to, everything else is meaningless. This is a great service for the hearing impaired, but for everyone else talking on the phone is still far superior." — Lawrence Ryan

2. “I don't know if pictures would realistically improve our response. I suppose in some cases. What I'd worry about is people start drawing inaccurate conclusions before they get to a scene. In my service the #1 concern would be medic concluding "oh it doesn't look so bad" and then slowing their response only to arrive on scene and be wrong.” — Lawrence Ryan

3. “I just got a text today from my friend; she sent it three days ago …” — Anthony Perkins

4. “Pictures and videos would only be helpful if those viewing them know what they're looking for. Are dispatchers going to be trained to look at pictures and make a determination?” — Erin Swaim

5. “Pics can be faked and untrue. Some may be helpful if you’re trying to hide, but each person has a different speed at which they text and comprehend texts.” — Cody J Kniskern

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