One year ago today the Canadian Radio Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) issued a directive to all wireless service providers to implement the necessary infrastructure making it possible for the deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired (DHHSI) population to text message with 9-1-1. Today marks the deadline for that work to be completed and the wireless service providers have now handed the reins to 9-1-1 centres across the country to make their necessary changes.
Work is already underway at The City of Calgary Public Safety Communications (PSC) and it is hoped the new Text with 9-1-1 (T9-1-1) service will be available to Calgary’s deaf and hard or hearing community in spring 2014.
“Currently, the only way for the deaf and hard of hearing individuals to communicate with 9-1-1 is through the Teletypewriter (TTY) system, which was brought into use in the 1960s. We are happy that we will be able to offer them an updated service that will allow them better access to our emergency services,” said PSC Commander Steve Dongworth.
“We recognize this has been a long time coming and this community has been very patient. Our centre has made it a priority to get it up and running as soon as possible. We are very proud that we will be the first in Alberta to offer this service and amongst the first in Canada.”
PSC has started working with deaf and hard of hearing serving organizations and will continue to do so over the coming months to educate their members on what to expect from the service. Once the service is available in Calgary, all DHHSI individuals with a cell phone subscription will be able to register for the free service.
Once registered, a DHHSI person requiring emergency services will still dial 9-1-1 on their cell phone however, the 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Officer (ECO) will receive an indicator telling them to communicate with the caller via text messaging.
T9-1-1 will not be available for members of the general public. Voice calling remains the best and most effective way to access 9-1-1 services by a person that is not deaf, hard of hearing or with speech impairment. During an emergency, time is of the essence and talking enables faster communication than texting, and there is a small chance that text messaging could be delayed. Text to 9-1-1 for the public at large may be available at some time in the future.
For more information and updates on the T9-1-1 initiative please visit www.Textwith911.ca.