February 25, 2011
Mobile phone users could soon be able to text 999
Mobile phone users could soon have the ability to text 999 in an emergency, under recommendations put forward by regulator Ofcom.
A 14,500-participant trial of such a text scheme has been running for over a year, focusing mainly on deaf and speech-impaired people. During the trial, an average of one text a day was received from someone needing help from the emergency services. Incidents requiring assistance included heart attacks, strokes and childbirth.
Ofcom has now recommended that it should be mandatory for mobile phone companies to provide the service. However, anyone wanting to be able to text in an emergency would need to be pre-registered in order to prevent problems with hoax texters. Users would need to say why they needed help and where they were, although mobile technology would give emergency services some indication of their location.
Ofcom says that while it recognises that texting for emergency help takes longer than calling, it is still a better option than the current alternatives available to people who can't make a telephone call.
The texting facility has been recommended in response to European legislation which comes into effect on May 25 2011, which says that there must be equal access to emergency services for disabled people.