Wireless Association emphasizes importance of text messaging during emergencies

Wireless communications such as text messaging are more than a tool for social interaction, they can be used to save lives and help prevent criminal activity—a message commercial wireless trade association CTIA is emphasizing as the organization celebrates Wireless Safety Week this week.

During its annual awards dinner last night, CTIA’s The Wireless Foundation honored nine individuals as Wireless Samaritans. While most of these awards were given to civilians using commercial wireless technologies as part of heroic efforts to save lives or help authorities catch criminal perpetrators, one honoree was recognized for an ongoing program that leverages the power of wireless technology.

Commissioner Ed Davis and the Boston Police Department launched a “Text-a-Tip” program in 2007 to improve communication and cooperation between police and the police department’s Crime Stoppers mobile investigations program. By texting “TIP” to short code CRIME (27463), commercial wireless customers can have a two-way dialog with Boston police while remaining anonymous, according to CTIA.

In addition, CTIA this week is reminding the public how important text messaging can be during an emergency. Because text messages require so little bandwidth, they sometimes can reach their destination when a voice call cannot, such as when the network has reached capacity or when a user is in a location with marginal reception that supports only low-bandwidth transmissions, CTIA spokesman Joe Farren said.

Another nice feature of text messaging is that the device automatically will continue trying to transmit the message, allowing it to take advantage of coverage and capacity windows in the network, he said.

“You have to remember that the text message queues and keeps dialing, if you will, and will send as soon as it can,” Farren said during an interview with MRT.