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Google will bring RCS support to 911 emergency calls, starting this winter

RCS will make messaging 911 a much more dependable and universal process.
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Published onJune 6, 2024

TL;DR
  • RCS message support will roll out to every 911 call center in a gradual process, starting this winter.
  • In addition to texts, you’ll be able to send high-res video and images.
  • There’s even support for automatically sharing location data and opt-in medical info.

As a child, I was taught how to dial 911 from an early age. However, there are many situations where making a phone call might not be the most appropriate or safe option. For example, if your home is invaded, texting could draw less attention than a voice call. Hearing impairment is another scenario where texting could be more effective. While it’s already possible to text 911, this capability will improve dramatically for Google Messages users this winter, thanks to RCS integration.

Currently, only 53% of US 911 call centers can receive text messages, and many of these centers cannot receive pictures or videos. Today, Google announced it is partnering with emergency technology company RapidSOS to upgrade call centers nationwide, ensuring all can support RCS communications.

Google Messages SOS over RCS

This upgrade will not only deliver universal support for messaging 911, but also enhance the effectiveness of such communications over the current SMS standard. RCS allows users to confirm the delivery of messages and see if emergency responders are actively replying. Additionally, users will be able to send high-resolution images and videos. Thanks to the Android Emergency Location Service, it will also be possible to share precise locations and opt-in medical information automatically.

Google Messages SOS over RCS 1

Google and RapidSOS have not provided a specific timeline, only stating that the equipment rollout will begin this winter and that they will provide the free upgrade to all call centers across the country. It’s unclear how long all this will take, but it’s still a positive step forward. While Google’s press materials specifically mention Google Messages, any alternative apps that support RCS should theoretically also be compatible, although currently, that list is relatively short.

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