911 support in emergencies for deaf and hard of hearing

Deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired Central and Southern Interior residents can call 9-1-1 by texting

By Monika Lamb-Yorski

Central and Southern Interior residents who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired can now contact 9-1-1 by texting on their cell phones thanks to a service announced by the CRD board chair Al Richmond on Sept. 22.

“This is for the deaf and hearing impaired. If they see an incident, but can’t speak, and have registered with their cell phone provider, they will be able to text 9-1-1 and receive information back.”

It will improve information skills at home or out on the street, Richmond says.

“You can imagine being on the street and seeing an emergency and maybe no one else is around. You can’t report it or get help because you cannot speak. Now that won’t be the case.”

To access the service, go to www.TextWith911.ca and register with their wireless service provider and learn more about how the system works.

For now, the texting service is only for members of the deaf and speech-impaired community and voice calling remains the only way for other people to communicate with 9-1-1 services.

In the future, Richmond said, it is anticipated that texting 9-1-1 for the public at large will become available as nationwide 9-1-1 infrastructure evolves.

When the CRD, along with other regional districts in the north, switched from using the RCMP to E-Comm in Vancouver for emergency communications services in 2014, one of the reasons was because it was an opportunity to develop more technologies.

Texting 9-1-1 is a prime example, Richmond added.

Information videos are available below on how the service works (note there is no sound as they are made for the deaf and hearing impaired).

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2ZPOZPa5OS_NFJJRlROVE92TU0/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2ZPOZPa5OS_YVB1TVk1cU14cXM/view?usp=sharing

The service is now available throughout the Central Okanagan. North Okanagan, Central Kootenay, Columbia-Shuswap, Okanagan Similkameen, Thompson-Nicola, East Kootenay, Kootenay-Boundary and Squamish-Lillooet regional districts.

Monica Lamb-Yorski is a Williams Lake Tribune writer.