9-1-1 texting available for Deaf

9-1-1 texting available for Deaf in the northern, central and southern interiors

Locations where Text with 9-1-1 is available in B.C. For a complete list of communities visit ecomm911.ca
Locations where Text with 9-1-1 is available in B.C. For a complete list of communities visit ecomm911.ca

Regional districts in the northern, central and southern interiors of B.C. recently announced the availability of a specialized text service for those who are Deaf/Deaf-Blind, Hard-of-Hearing or Speech Impaired (DHHSI).

The service, called Text with 9-1-1 (T9-1-1), allows members of the DHHSI community to communicate with a 9-1-1 call-taker via text message in the event of an emergency. It is delivered by E-Comm in partnership with local emergency-service agencies and is now available throughout the regional districts of Fraser-Fort George, Cariboo, Kitimat-Stikine, Bulkley-Nechako, Central Okanagan, North Okanagan, Central Kootenay, Columbia-Shuswap, Okanagan-Similkameen, Thompson-Nicola, East Kootenay, Kootenay-Boundary and Squamish-Lillooet.

“T9-1-1 is a vital connection to police, fire and ambulance and enables quick communication between a Deaf caller and emergency services,” remarked Gordon Rattray, treasurer of the Okanagan Valley Association of the Deaf (OVAD). “In the past Deaf people were limited by communication barriers and would have to use phone relay or TTY (telephone typewriter) units which would take five or ten minutes longer. The OVAD is very excited to have T9-1-1 in the interior regional districts and we look forward to helping promote the availability of this service with the DHHSI community. We’re proud of this enhancement to emergency services that E-Comm provides.”

Art Kaehn, board chair for the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, echoed Rattray’s sentiments. “We are pleased our DHHSI communities now have an improved way of communicating with local police, fire and ambulance services. I encourage people not to delay in registering for this service and to learn how to use it.”

The specialized T9-1-1 technology was developed by Canada’s telecommunications services providers and requires users to register for the service. To initiate the text session with a 9-1-1 call-taker a voice call must first be placed to 9-1-1.

E-Comm was the first 9-1-1 centre in Canada to launch the service in March 2014 and since then, has handled 35 T9-1-1 calls. The service is also available throughout Metro Vancouver and northern Vancouver Island. For people without hearing and speech impairments, voice calling remains the only way to communicate with 9-1-1 services as T9-1-1 is available only to members of the DHHSI community. Text messages sent directly to the digits “9-1-1” will not reach emergency services anywhere in Canada. Text to 9-1-1 for the public-at-large is anticipated in the future as the nationwide 9-1-1 infrastructure evolves.

Members of the DHHSI community should visit TextWith911.ca to register their cellphones with their wireless service provider and to learn more about how the system works.