An Assembly panel today cleared the way for legislation to enable residents to text 911 in an emergency. The bill was sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway, Daniel Benson, Nancy Pinkin and Assembly Republican Conference Leader David Rible.
The sponsors said the ability to text 9-1-1 will be a vital service for New Jersey residents with communication disabilities and in emergencies where an individual is unable to talk or must be discrete.
“Some emergency situations require a less obvious call for help,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “It can be especially vital in domestic violence situations, or situations involving children and seniors. Expanding existing law to include the option to text 9-1-1 will protect more residents in more emergency situations.”
The bill requires 911 service facilities to be equipped with system for processing requests for emergency services sent via text message. Under the bill, 911 service facilities to be equipped with enhanced 911 systems approved by the Office of Emergency Telecommunications Services for the processing of requests for emergency services sent via text message within three years following the enactment of this bill.
“Almost everyone communicates by text these days,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “It makes sense that a person should also be able to text for help too. This will also help those with speech and other communication disabilities to more easily access these life saving services.”
“Enacting this legislation would allow for more lives to be saved,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “9-1-1 systems must adapt to current trends in order to be the most effective in emergencies.”
“Time is crucial in an emergency. A matter of minutes can mean the difference between life and death,” said Rible, R-Monmouth and Ocean, a former police officer. “With so many people today owning cell phones, it’s only logical that 9-1-1 centers should be equipped to handle emergency texts. If an intruder is in your house, texting for help is probably the safest means of notifying emergency personnel of your situation.”
The bill provides that the 911 System and Emergency response Fee is to increase by 10 percent to equip 911 service facilities with the ability to process requests for emergency services sent via text message. The fee increase is to expire after a period of three years following the enactment of the bill.
Currently, the 911 System and Emergency Response Fee, which is used to fund the 911 system, is a $.90 monthly fee imposed on mobile service customers and telephone company customers in this state. This bill increases the monthly fee to $.99.
The bill was released by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.