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Toronto City Council will vote on 911 texting

By Arthur Weinreb     Jul 12, 2016 in Technology
Toronto - If Toronto City Councillor Norm Kelly gets his way, Toronto will become the first Canadian city to allow people to text 911 as well as call. Kelly will introduce a motion before council in an attempt to get the process started.
Kelly intends to introduce the motion, that will be seconded by Councillor Justin Di Ciano, at today’s meeting of city council. Kelly had previously tweeted about his proposal and has received a lot of positive response on social media.
The motion references last month’s mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Many people in the club were able to hide from the shooter and texted on their phones rather than risk being heard talking. Orlando does not provide the ability to text 911 so patrons were forced to text friends and relatives and asked them to call police.
In the United States, only 650 of the country’s 6,000 dispatch centres have the capability to allow texts, including pictures and videos, to be sent to 911.
Currently, some parts of Canada have the technology to allow people with hearing or speaking disabilities to text 911. The ability for disabled people to text 911 is available in some areas in seven provinces including Ontario. Ontario has this capability in about 500 communities including Toronto. But no place in Canada gives this option to the non-disabled.
In January, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) began developing a framework for what it refers to as “next generation 911.” This might lead to the 911 texting option becoming available throughout the country.
As Digital Journal earlier reported, many jurisdictions in the United States began discussing texting in the wake of the Orlando shootings. The downside of texting is that sending pictures and videos will slow down they system and slow down police response time, especially in major cities. And just as people make non-emergency or totally improper calls to 911, it can be expected that unnecessary pictures and videos will be sent.
In the U.S., many places that have texting use the slogan “Call if you can, text if you can’t” to stress that calling is preferable and texting should only be used when being overheard talking can pose a danger.
Kelly’s motion will ask the Toronto Police Services Board to review the idea of texting 911.
More about texting 911, Toronto city council, councillor norm kelly, Crtc, orlando mass shooting
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