Emergency Service for the Deaf and Speech-Impaired

It looks like emergency service via 911 is becoming a reality for the deaf and speech-impaired in North America. In Canada, it was announced recently that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has ordered that wireless carriers must make changes to make it possible for 911 to be available via text messaging within twelve months. CRTC has also made it a requirement that a plan be in place for the wireless carriers to inform the general public as well as their customers of the 911 text messaging service.

You have to be pre-registered with your wireless service for that to be available to you. It is just like dialing 911 on your phone, with no need to launch your IM program or the browser to get to a relay interface and have to get someone to call 911 for help. When you dial it, your 911 request is flagged as a pre-registered user needing assistance through text messaging, and a 911 operator will text you so that you can be helped.

Very late last year, it was released by the Federal Communications Commission that this service would be available in the United States by May 15, 2014. You MUST remember that this service will not be provided to roaming users or those with third-party texting apps. At this time, a plan is being implemented such that anyone who texts 911 (instead of dialing 911) will get an auto-reply stating that their 911 message was not received and that they need to call 911 instead. This will be in place by June 30, 2013.

PLEASE REMEMBER that even if you don’t have voice minutes on your phone, you can still dial 911 on your phone, and because a call was initiated from your phone, emergency services has to come out to determine the need for service. You can either say, “I am deaf I need help,” or not say anything at all, just don’t hang up until the police arrive.

This becomes very important, especially since one-third of all calls for 911 has been through cell phones. Current technology supports the ability to determine a cell phone’s location through pinpointing which tower was used to initiate the call. However, SMS (texting) implementation has not been as successful. Technology needs to be upgraded to allow for this. Currently, several cities in the United States are testing the 911 system, including Rochester, New York; Bozeman, Montana; King County, Washington state; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Calls via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) through programs like Skype and Vonage would also be made possible. The 40-year-old 911 system will be getting a massive, nation-wide upgrade that would be ready by the end of this decade, if not the next decade.

One Response to Emergency Service for the Deaf and Speech-Impaired

  1. Lorene Solomon April 30, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    The Federal Communications Commission wants to bring the 911 emergency service into the 21st century with new technologies such as text messaging and automatic alerts.

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