Texting and Tweeting 911 May Become Reality in Canada

Social media has changed the way we share news, post photos, and schedule our work days.

Now it’s poised to change the way we make 911 calls.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has announced that they are currently soliciting feedback on the performance of 911 services in Canada. According to the commission, faster next-generation networks are changing the operation of telecom services.

“As telecommunications networks evolve and adopt new technologies, we all have an interest in ensuring that the system continues to meet Canadians’ needs,” said national commissioner Tim Denton in a recent statement.

The CRTC has raised the possibility of incorporating new technologies, such as Twitter, video and email, into emergency services. They’re looking for feedback on the performance and adequacy of their current program, as well as suggestions on how it can be improved. Since wireless communication is now the norm, experts are trying to take advantage of these new mobile technologies.

According to a press release from the CRTC, texting or emailing your 911 call may be on the horizon. “Currently, if you want 911 services, you have to phone,” said Lance Valcour, Executive Director of the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group. “But also in the future it will be video to 911, photographs to 911, potentially social media to 911.”

The CRTC already tested out the feasibility of texting earlier this year with trials in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. For three months, 120 participants were invited to report emergencies via text instead of through voice calls.

According to the CRTC, using Twitter to report emergencies may also be a possibility in the future. With over 200 million active users, Twitter has long been a source of news. The company recently called its users “the pulse of the planet.”

The overall goal of the CRTC consultation is to make 911 services more accessible for Canadians, especially those who rely on wireless communication. Back in 2010, the CRTC made a major upgrade to its 911 system which improved the ability of dispatchers to locate mobile phones using GPS.

According to a recent statement from The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, urban residents use their cellphones to make emergency calls in most cases.

Whether or not you use a cellphone, you’re invited to submit feedback on the current 911 system using an online form on the CRTC website. The CRTC will be accepting submissions until February 1st and the results will be reviewed next spring.