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PSA: Google RCS messages might save your life

Published Jun 6th, 2024 12:00PM EDT
Google Messages will support 911 texting via RCS.
Image: Google

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Google and RapidSOS announced a partnership on Thursday that might save your life someday. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use it, but support for RCS texting to 911 is coming to Google Messages on Android devices. You’ll be able to text emergency responders, which could come in handy in various situations. Sending images and sharing your location with 911 responders in the US might further improve their ability to provide fast assistance.

The feature will be rolling out gradually, however, as emergency call centers will have to enable it as well. It’s not just up to Google to add support for RCS texting to 911 centers. RapidSOS will be helping those centers roll out the functionality on their end. That’s why the feature won’t be available until sometime this winter, and also why it’ll inly be available in the US.

What’s interesting is that, according to Google’s blog post, RCS texting might work even in emergency scenarios where SMS is not available.

Google further explained that 911 services already support SMS texting, but the feature is available only to 53% of the emergency responder call centers in the US. Also, you don’t always get to share photos and videos with regular SMS support.

The advantage of texting with 911 over RCS is that you get, well, rich communications services. That’s what RCS stands for.

Texting to 911 will feel just like texting with family and friends.
Texting 911 will feel just like texting with family and friends. Image source: Google

Texting 911 over RCS will work just like texting friends and family. You’ll see confirmation of your emergency request’s delivery status, and you can see when responders are typing. They will certainly not leave you hanging on delivered or read without providing guidance. Well, not as long as you have an internet connection.

RCS to 911 communication will support precise location sharing with emergency services. Also, as you can see in the images that Google provided as examples, RCS texting to emergency services will support high-resolution photos and videos that might help the first responders assess your situation.

You won’t have to do anything on your Android device to get the functionality. And, hopefully, you’ll never have to text 911 services. Google and RapidSOS will be working on implementing the feature on Android devices and 911 call centers, respectively.

I’ll also note that Apple has announced that RCS support is coming to the iPhone in the near future. I’m certain it’ll happen once iOS 18 rolls out, either this fall or in a subsequent update. It’ll be interesting to see if iPhones will also support RCS texting to 911 services.

Then again, Apple is adopting the GSMA’s RCS standard, not Google’s implementation. Also, Apple has enabled text communication over satellite connectivity for emergencies, but it’s only available on newer iPhone models.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.