Good for the hearing impaired, deaf people, and people in difficult situations. Texting to 911 is free, but it requires a data connection which usually isn't free. So one can't just carry around an old cell phone with no plan and text 911as one can do with calls to 911.
"But just because the service is now available, it doesn't mean that it everyone can use it. If you are able, you should call 911 instead of using the Text-to-911 service. "
Not sure what you're asking, but I think 911 calls are always live and the live operators wouldn't be able to see numbers or letters pressed while on a call, for if that were the case, why introduce texting as an improvement. However, I believe some hearing impaired people have special phone setups where callers speech is translated to visible words or text on a screen, not to mention the obvious automated incoming calls to people that do, as we all have experienced, recognize numbers we press and input as requested by the caller, automation many of us find irritating.
My thinking was if I were hiding in a place and didn't want to give away my location by talking, could a 911 operator hear or see the numbers pressed. Numbers being pressed make distinct sounds, 4357 (HELP) or 767 (SOS) or maybe 911, so the operator would know it was a real need and not a prank. I doubt I would ever be in this position but it would be good to know how to comunicate in silence if needed.
The PrepaidPhone news article didn't provide much detail but did mention domestic violence victims who would likely be in danger if heard making a phone call and who can now silently text instead. So even if a person is able to dial and call 911, the system apparently is not capable of recognizing silently typed in numbers as codes for distress signals while on the call. Hence, the added option to text.