Ottawa Police unveil text-to-911 service for people with hearing disabilities

Americas, February 18 2016

OTTAWA: The Ottawa Police Service in cooperation with the City of Ottawa’s Security and Emergency Management Branch is pleased to announce that Texting to 911 for people who are deaf or have hard of hearing is now available in Ottawa.

texting screen “In the past, people who are deaf and hard of hearing have had to rely on a TTY system attached to their land lines at home to communicate with 911 operators,” said Insp. Paul Gallant, Ottawa Police Communications Centre. “This upgrade not only provides an additional mechanism for contacting 911 in an emergency but also allows the caller to contact 911 from anywhere cell phone services are available using their cell phone.”

The first step for people with hearing disabilities to take is to register their cell phones with their service provider in order to allow this functionality. For many providers, this is an online process. Once registered, the subscriber will have the ability to text their information to the 911 call taker in the event of an emergency.

The process to contact the 911 Centre is not the same as a regular texting session. The registered caller dials 911 and the 911 call taker will be able to identify that the call is being made by a person with hearing disability and will then be able to start a texting session with the caller.

The 911 call taker will be able to hear background noise and provide verbal instructions to the caller, if they have an ability to hear in addition to texting.  For individuals who are hearing disability but can speak, they will be able to verbalize information and receive a response and instructions from the 911 call taker via text.

The following tips are being offered when texting 911 in an emergency:

  • Do not text while driving
  • Be sure to include clear information as to your location and the nature of your emergency
  • Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 call taker
  • Text using simple language; do not use abbreviations and avoid using emoticons or emoji
  • Keep text messages brief and concise
  • Stay on the line until the call taker advises you that no further dialogue is required
  • Please keep in mind that texting does take longer than engaging in a conversation
  • Photos and videos cannot be sent to 911 at this time

“Text to 911 is great news for people with hearing disabilities. This is an important service enhancement to our community’s 911 service,” said Pierre Poirier, Chief, Security and Emergency Management, City of Ottawa.

Over the course of the last year, the necessary technological upgrades took place in order to make this functionality available to people with hearing disabilities.  911 call takers have received the necessary training and operational procedures to support this added feature have been put in place.

“This is a perfect example of how technology can be used to improve access to emergency services, and illustrates our commitment to meeting the accessibility needs of people with disabilities under the AODA legislation,” added Insp. Gallant. “We encourage people with hearing disabilities to register their cell phones and take advantage of this new feature.”

Share this post: