The Fort Saskatchewan and Strathcona County of Alberta, Canada has implemented a new program in their 911 emergency hotline system. Last August 1 marked the day that the program “Text With 911” has been fully set-up. The program is meant to cater to the deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired (DHHSI) communities of the two counties.
“Text With 911” is meant to replace the previous Teletype Terminal (TTY) and Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) technology which were originally used by the impaired community in the past. The two programs are replaced by a simpler text to the universally known emergency number 911.
“The new computer software allows the 911 dispatcher to type on the computer back and forth with the caller’s cell device,” said Fort Saskatchewan fire chief, Shawn McKerry. “This will ensure they will get the emergency services they need as quickly as possible.”
“Currently Fort Saskatchewan contracts Strathcona to be our 911 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) so our 911 calls go there and the new service extends to us,” he reportedly added.
The Strathcona County PSAP is one of the only eight PSAP offering the 911 text service in Alberta.
The Strathcona County deputy fire chief, Bob Scott estimates that the new program would cater to about 200,000. He added that the service is available to everyone even though it was focused on the DHHSI communities.
Registering your phone with the new service is as easy as contacting your mobile service provider. Once registered, the user can now use their phone to ask for help through instant messages. The 911 dispatcher would then be informed of a new emergency message prompting him or her for a response.
The “Text With 911” is also available 24/7 much like its hotline counterpart.
“The Text With 911, just as any other phone call to 911, should only be used for emergency situations, where the individual needs a response from police, fire, or emergency medical services,” said Scott.
He also said that the present 911 dispatchers have already been trained on how to properly use the new system.
“On the horizon one day, text to 911 will be available for everyone else but before then we need to ensure it is a rock solid service before it goes live as 911 is a critical service,” added McKerry.
Training 911 dispatchers on how to use newly implemented equipment and systems ensure that there are no delays in providing someone service once they call.