Brandon expects to launch a text-to-911 service this spring.
Manitoba will be one of the first regions across Canada to launch the Text to 911 initiative for the deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired community.
It was originally slated to roll out in March. However, Ross Robinson, director of emergency communications with the City of Brandon, says due to industry delays, it is about a month behind. He expects it to be up and running by April 1.
"(The delay) is not specific to our area," he said. "It has got to do with the technological upgrades that … have yet to be completed."
Other regions in the country are still a year or two away from T911.
The nationwide T911 initiative was sparked by a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission decision early 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.
A deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired person (DHHSI), will be able to text their 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 DHHSI community have been basically unable to connect with 911, unless they’re at home where their TTY (teletype) is," Robinson said. "And we haven’t received a TTY call for years. So what this does, it gives them the same access to first responders in an emergency, like the rest of the community."
A DHHSI person wanting the ability to use the service must register for it with their wireless service provider.
The CRTC’s decision came after regional tests in Vancouver, Toronto, Peel region in southern Ontario, and Montreal, while some regions in the U.S. already have similar services installed.
Robinson estimates 350 Manitobans will need the 911 text-messaging service.
Natalie Mulaire, chief operating officer with the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities, said Text to 911 will be a "very welcomed service" to the DHHSI community.
"Certainly our organization would be supportive of it," she said. "We’d want to make sure that it proceeds and it is done so in a way that people can access it fairly easily though. If they qualify for it they should be able to access it without too much complication or too many barriers."
For more information on the initiative visit textwith911.ca, a website launched by the Canadian Wireless Telecommuniciations Association.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 4, 2014