Re: Deafs 911 calls must be heard, Letters, Oct. 28.
As the regional 911 answer point, we share Mr. Stewarts desire to see new and better ways for the deaf community to access 911 services, including contact through mobile devices.
In fact, E-Comm has successfully advocated to the CRTC the federal body that has authority over how 911 service is accessed by the public to be one of four national trial sites.
Work is already underway with Telus to implement a test program to demonstrate and evaluate access to 911 for the deaf, hard-of-hearing and speech impaired through text messaging.
At this time, no 911 centre in Canada is able to receive and/or respond to text messages as the supporting telecommunications networks are not equipped for this.
However, the trial we are collaborating on will help identify the technology requirements and operational processes needed to support receiving texts from deaf or speech-impaired callers.
While it may appear the natural immediate next step would be accepting texts from the public at large, its not as straightforward as it seems.
911 providers across North America are working to find ways to make this possible on a broader scale, but to be used only in those rare circumstances when a voice call is absolutely not possible.
Voice calls remain the preferred way to receive 911 calls because of the personal contact it allows with callers.
911 call-takers are trained to pick up on voice clues, listen and take note of background noise, and to gather information very quickly, all of which can be critical to response. This is best achieved through voice calls.
However, recognizing how much consumer technology has changed, there is a real opportunity to find ways to make text-to-911 possible for the deaf community, and that is something we are actively pursuing.