Verizon announced yesterday that it has selected a vendor to help launch the nation's first "text-to-911" service, which will enable users who are deaf and hard of hearing to contact emergency call centers via SMS. The carrier said it will partner with Annapolis, MD-based TeleCommunication Systems on the initiative, adding that the service could also pay dividends in situations where users are unable to speak over the phone, for fear of further endangerment.

Friday's announcement comes nearly nine months after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced a "five-step action plan" to help mobile providers transition to "Next Generation 9-1-1" (NG911) services, which would allow users to send texts, photos, and video. It's unclear whether Verizon's system will support these additional capabilities, though the company did confirm that the service will run on its existing CDMA network, and that it will be available to all users with text-enabled handsets.

The FCC, meanwhile, lauded Verizon's announcement, with spokesperson Tammy Sun telling The Hill that Genachowski "commended the company for offering consumers another way to reach 911 that is consistent with how millions of consumers already use mobile devices in their daily lives." The company aims to launch its service by early 2013.