Emergency services providing 911 text service for the deaf

Those with listening disabilities will now have a new way to contact emergency services.

As part of the province’s “Next Gen 911,” the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority will offer members of the deaf, deafened, hard of hearing and speech impaired (DHHSI) community to text into 911.

The service began two days ago and aims to give DHHSI another way to communicate with emergency services.

Incumbent fire chief Jay Melvin said this is the first step to integrating the next generation plan.

“It’s part of the new CRTC guidelines in ensuring we’re improving our 911 service. As we released to the media before, as we slowly start to transition to next generation 911, the first piece of that was getting text with 911 completed with our service. Now that’s open to the people in the community that are deaf, hard of hearing or impaired,” said Melvin.

“In future you’ll be able to iMessage 911 right to the call centre, so we see that as another excellent option to get emergency service to where it needs to go,” he said.

“As we slowly get into next generation 911, the goal is you’ll soon be able to start to do message texting right to 911, you’re going to able to send video right to 911, you can send pictures to 911, so the 911 call-taker can physically see what’s going on and make sure we get the right services there for you.

“That is going to be an interesting challenge to get through because that’s a lot of technical IT stuff, but right now we’re well in the stages to getting that done.”

To get hooked up for the service, you first have to make sure your phone is capable and talk to your service provider. From there, you register with the provider.

Once registered, in an emergency situation you first still call 911, and the call taker can see the phone line is text capable. That’s how they communicate back and forth.

“It’s not only going to be critical that they have the phone capability, but they need to understand how to use it. We’re very open if there’s members in the community that were going to use the service and help them with the trial,” said Melvin.

This service is available In the Town and M.D. of Bonnyvllle, the Summer Villages of Bonnyville Beach and Pelican Narrows, Frog Lake, Kehewln, Cold Lake First Nations, the Village of Glendon and Fishing Lake Matis Settlement.

It extends as far as the Town and County of Smoky Lake, Villages of Waskatenau and Vilna, Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement,  Kikino Metis Settlement, Town and County of St. Paul, Town of Elk Point, Summer Village of Horseshoe Bay, and Saddle Lake First Nations.