Sending text messages instead of calling 911 is the next innovation cellphone users in Iowa could see. A statehouse committee discussed the issue as members considered a bill to increase the monthly cellphone surcharge to raise money for the equipment upgrades to allow the emergency texts.
Kent Hartwig with the Iowa Emergency Management Association said the major cellphone companies will be providing text messages for 911 calls by May of next year.
“Whether the P-SAP — public safety answering point — can receive that message remains to be seen. That’s the main driver of why we’re asking for additional resources. So, that is what that next gen 911 is looking at,” Hartwig said.
Patrick Fusic with Sprint said at least one public safety answering point in Iowa is pressing ahead with the new technology. “I think there’s a few P-SAP’s here that are actually doing some testing…one anyway that has that ability to receive text massaging. I’m not aware of other states that have gone that direction yet,” Fusic said.
The bill would raise the monthly 911 surcharge on cellphones from 65 cents to one dollar, to match the dollar surcharge people with landline phones already pay. Backers say more and more emergency calls are coming from mobile phones, while the surcharge on landlines has been covering most of the cost.