"Text to 911" proposal in Rhode Island
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) -- With just a tap of your phone, you can do everything from ordering dinner to hailing a ride. But in Rhode Island, getting help in an emergency is a little more complicated than that.
"It's not acceptable," said Rep. Joe McNamara, a Democrat who represents District 19 (Warwick and Cranston).
"Text to 911" is already available in Connecticut in Massachusetts.
"They have it in other states, so they should have it here," said Denise Rollman of Providence.
Now Rep. McNamara wants to fast-track the service in Rhode Island.
"It would bring our 911 system into the 21st century and I believe that Rhode Islanders expect to be able to text 911," said McNamara.
He says texting for help could save lives--from a medical emergency, to a business being robbed, even a crisis at school.
"A student or teacher texting the location of a potential shooter or someone that was going to cause harm," said McNamara.
McNamara's bill would establish a single statewide text-to-911 system, compatible with the current emergency telephone network.
"Yeah, I think it would be a good thing to have," said Amanda Parenteau of Woonsocket.
Folks I spoke to say they welcome the idea.
"If you're in an abusive situation where your spouse is currently yelling at you and the only method you have is your phone, being able to text 911 to get out of it instead of talk, it could make a huge difference," said Parenteau.
"You should be able to text if that happens, and I think that's a great idea," said Rollman.
State 911 officials are already working to get a text-to-911 system in place, but Rep. McNamara hopes this bill speeds that up. If it passes, the bill would mandate the program by January 2020. But McNamara says ideally he'd like to see Rhode Islanders be able to text 911 by this June.
© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2019