Is Texting 911 a Good Idea?

As OSU joins the ranks of communities using text messaging technology to reach 911 there will be more contact with emergency responders.  But text messaging's downside is that it allows for increased anonymity in reporting.  Misuse of 911 is not a new problem but swatting and other forms of misinformation are on the rise nationally.  They create dangerous situations for emergency responders and unwitting targets and will be easier with increased access.  Texting technology not only makes 911 "reporters" feel less accountable though a less personal form of communication than a phone call but also allow for decreased accountability as messaging can also be done through online formats.  “You can contact the police with information and nobody would know you’re sending it,” said Ramona Patts, administrator in the Columbus Division of Support Services.  That may prove to be the problem.

A text may actually imply to first responders that the situation is such that it may be dangerous or not possible to make a phone call thereby raising the level of alert felt in responding to communications.

While OSU and other users of texting technology are no doubt trying to be as accessible as possible, this technology will present new challenges for police that may outweigh the benefits.  Hopefully agencies using this texting technology are ready for the challenges that lie ahead.