Text-to-911 bill passed unanimously by City Council

A bill that would allow residents to text 911 in cases of emergency was passed by the City Council on Tuesday, June 21 via a unanimous 49 to zero vote.

If signed into law, the legislation (Intro 868), sponsored in the Council by Councilmembers Laurie Cumbo, Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson, would require the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) to create a plan that would allow for such digital communications (like text messages, videos and photographs) to be sent directly to emergency responders using the city’s 911 system.

“From mass shootings and acts of terrorism to the rise in violence against women, we live in a tumultuous climate that requires the adaptation of text to 911 capabilities within the City of New York,” said Cumbo. “With more than 8.4 million residents, our city is one of the largest municipalities in the United States that does not have an emergency communications system in place that would allow citizens to seek assistance by sending text messages, photos and videos to 911 operators and police dispatchers without endangering their lives by alarming the perpetrator(s) of a crime.”

The bill, introduced in August of last year, piggybacks on the systems currently in place in at least eight counties in New York State, and would also require the Commissioner of Information Technology and Telecommunications to issue an annual report on the implementation of “Next Generation 911.”

“All New Yorkers should have every available tool to seek the help they need in an emergency,” said Levine. “From Honolulu to Indianapolis to Houston, more jurisdictions across the countries are adding this technology to their emergency communication systems. I am thrilled that New York is joining this growing movement today to strengthen public safety for all New Yorkers, and establish a truly modern emergency communications system.”

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