Last month, Frederick County began a pilot of a text message 911 service. Frederick County is the sixth jurisdiction in the country to offer the service. Frederick County is Maryland’s largest county geographically and also home to the Maryland School for the Deaf. According to Frederick County’s press release,
Verizon Wireless customers in Frederick County, Maryland can now send a short message service (SMS) text message to 911 for emergency help when unable to make a 911 voice call. This service will be available to any Verizon Wireless customer within range of cell towers located in Frederick County. Text to 911 is intended primarily for use in two emergency scenarios:
- for those individuals who are hearing impaired and for those unable to make a voice call, for example during a medical emergency that renders the person incapable of speech, or
- in the instance of a home invasion or abduction where the sound of a voice call may increase risk to the caller.
As reported by Government Technology, the county currently receives 65 percent of its 911 calls from wireless devices. Recognizing the shift to cell phone usage of 911 services, MACo recently supported a prepaid 911 fee for all cell phone users. The legislation, SB745, passed the General Assembly this session. As described in our recent post,
SB 745 would extend Maryland’s current 9-1-1 charge to prepaid wireless services and ensure Maryland’s 9-1-1 system is appropriately supported. MACo supported the legislation stating that it provides a reasonable approach for extending this surcharge to all individuals who benefit from these important services and it would provide additional revenue to support the most important functions of our emergency call centers.
For more information on the legislation to extend 911 charges to prepaid wireless services, see our recent posts: