Sunday, March 18, 2012

How 911 texting will impact search and rescue

Search and rescue helicopter

Last week I posted about how 911 can’t even locate your mobile phone in many parts of the US, so most folks shouldn’t expect to be able to text 911 anytime soon, but that will change early next year for some Verizon customers. There isn’t a firm schedule for nationwide implementation of this next generation 911 capability, but imagine the impact it will ultimately have on backcountry search and rescue (SAR). After all, text messages can often be successfully delivered where coverage is too weak to place a voice call.

SPOT satellite communicators recently racked up their 2000th rescue, and while some SAR personnel initially bemoaned them, others are starting to see their value (although there are always going to be a few idiots out there who will misuse any technology).

Yet the percentage of backcountry users carrying a satellite communicator must be way less than 1%. Cell phones though? The number is undoubtedly huge. Many GPS Tracklog readers have come across folks on the trail who clearly weren’t prepared, had no sense of direction and certainly didn’t have a map and compass with them. I suspect that the number of SAR missions will go up dramatically once nationwide 911 texting is up and running.

What do you think? For those of you outside the US that already have 911 texting, how has it played out?

Image  © Copyright John Chroston and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. Jon Henderson says:

    Here in the UK you can send texts to our 911 service (999 here). You have to register for it first but after that you simply send a text. Thankfully I’ve never had to use it so can’t comment on how effective it is from personal experience, but reports I’ve read indicate it works extremely well.

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