Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wireless technology and emergency communications

Twitter is being credited with rapidly spreading the news about the gunman who took hostages in Silver Spring, MD yesterday. Wireless technology and social media are increasingly playing a key role in emergency communications. People are using their smart phones to spread information in emergency situations.

The FCC estimates that one-third of all emergency calls are made from cell phones. Research also shows that 74% of Americans have used mobile devices in emergency situations and have gained valuable help. According to the FCC, 20% of the population has stopped using landlines and uses wireless devices in homes.

Text messaging and various forms of social media are also beginning to play a role in emergency communications. According to an American Red Cross survey 20% of adults would try to contact emergency responders via e-mail, text message, web sites, and social media outlets; most believe help will come after they tweet of post asking for help.

Dispatchers across the country are looking to update emergency networks to be more compatible with the increasing use of wireless technology to contact emergency services. This month a 911 call center in Iowa became the first one in the country with the ability to receive text messages. Durham County in North Carolina is working on receiving emergency calls via text message and streaming video.

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