All four major U.S. carriers have agreed to accelerate the availability of text-to-911, with major deployments expected in 2013 and a commitment to nationwide availability by May 15, 2014. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the initiative as part of an agreement with the Association of Public Safety (APCO). 

A text-to-911 capability would allow people to contact emergency communications in situations where a voice call could endanger the caller, or a person with disabilities is unable to make a voice call. The FCC says text-to-911 will be a complement to, not a substitute for, voice calls to 911 services. 

Because a text-based 911 option will rollout in phases, the carriers will also deploy an automatic “bounce back” text message to notify consumers if their attempt to reach 911 via text message was unsuccessful because the service is not yet available in their area. Such a message would instruct the recipient to make a voice call to a 911 center.  

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless have agreed to fully implement this “bounce back” capability across their networks by June 30, 2013.