Deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired Manitobans will have to wait until June 3 before they can begin texting 911 in an emergency.
The Text to 911 initiative was originally slated to launch in Manitoba in March.
Ross Robinson, the city’s director of emergency communications, said the delay is due to technical upgrades. Brandon is now ready to go; however, the city is waiting for other agencies to get online.
“We’ve tested our system, we’ve rolled out training our staff, we’ve got procedures in place, so we’re kind of good to go — we’re just waiting for some other people to catch up,” Robinson said.
The nationwide T911 initiative was sparked by a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission decision last year.
Brandon’s E911 dispatch centre, which takes calls from all over Manitoba except Winnipeg, will launch the initiative in conjunction with Winnipeg emergency services.
Robinson said even with the delay, Manitoba will still be ahead of the majority of Canada when it comes to the T911 initiative.
One of the organizations is taking a different approach to the rollout, Robinson said, which caused “a little bit more of a headache for them.”
In Canada, Text to 911 is currently available in the Peel Region of Ontario, Calgary, as well as three B.C. districts — Metro Vancouver, Squamish Lillooet Regional District South and Sunshine Coast Regional District.
A deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired person (DHHSI) will be able to text his or her emergency details to the dispatcher, following the initial voice call to 911.
The operator will be notified by the call screen that the user needs to communicate via text message. A voice call will always be maintained because the operator must be able to hear the noises in the background of the call.
“The deaf, hard of hearing, speech-impaired community have, previous to this, only been able to contact 911 using their (teletype),” Robinson said.
“That meant that the only place that they could get emergency help was when they were at their home.”
Once the initiative is launched, members of the DHHSI community will be able to access 911 anywhere they have their cellphones.
A DHHSI person wanting the ability to use the service must register for it with their wireless service provider.
Robinson estimates 350 Manitobans will need the 911 text-messaging service.
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