Proposal would ensure you can text 911 and get help
That is why Assemblyman Dave Rible (R-Wall) has introduced a bill to address the situation and potentially save lives. The Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee is scheduled to consider the legislation Thursday.
"My bill would require 911 service facilities to be equipped with the technology to accept requests for emergency services that were sent via text messages," said Rible, a former police officer.
If the measure becomes law, the 911 systems would have to be approved for the processing of emergency text requests by the Office of Emergency Telecommunications Services within three years of the bill's enactment.
"People today, the younger generation sometimes don't even know how to make a phone call anymore," Rible said. "Everything is either a text or an email. That's number one. Secondly, we have to think of people who are in a very dangerous situation who know they can't talk. Maybe they're a potential victim of a home invasion who is maybe hiding in a closet."
Committee members should get an idea Thursday about how much, if any, opposition there is to the legislation. There could be concerns about the funding mechanism. The current 911 System and Emergency Response Fee, which is used to fund the state's 911 system, is a 90-cent monthly payment imposed on New Jersey cellphone and telephone company customers. This bill would increase the monthly fee to 99 cents.
Rible said he has heard the concern that bogus 911 emergency requests could increase with texting capabilities, but he was not worried about that.
"If someone sends in a hoax text for 911, they would be subject to the same criminal and civil penalties as someone who picks up a phone and dials it," Rible said. "They can't run from the law on that. Their number is their number and they're traceable no matter what."