Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen announced the availability of a specialized text service to communicate with 911 call-takers by text.

Text to 911 service now active in Okanagan-Similkameen

This service is called Text with 911 (T9-1-1) and is being delivered in the central and southern interiors.

On Wednesday the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen announced the availability of a specialized text service that allows people who are deaf/deaf-blind, hard-of-hearing or speech impaired to communicate with 911 call-takers by text.

This service is called Text with 911 (T9-1-1) and is being delivered by E-Comm — the emergency communications centre responsible for answering 911 calls in the central and southern interiors — in partnership with local emergency service agencies. The service is available throughout the Central Okanagan, North Okanagan, Central Kootenay, Columbia-Shuswap, Okanagan-Similkameen, Thompson-Nicola, East Kootenay, Kootenay-Boundary and Squamish-Lillooet regional districts.

(read more: New service allows text)

“T9-1-1 is a vital connection to police, fire and ambulance and enables quick communication between a Deaf caller and emergency services,” said Gordon Rattray, treasurer of the Okanagan Valley Association of the Deaf (OVAD). “In the past deaf people were limited by communication barriers and would have to use phone relay or TTY (telephone typewriter) which would take five or 10 minutes longer. The OVAD is very excited to have T9-1-1 in the interior regional districts and we look forward to helping promote the availability of this service with the DHHSI community. We’re proud of this enhancement to emergency services that E-Comm provides.”

T9-1-1 allows any DHHSI person who has pre-registered their cellphone with their wireless carrier to communicate with police, fire and ambulance call-takers via text during an emergency. Callers must first place a voice call to 911 in order to establish a voice network connection and initiate the special messaging technology.

“The Regional District Directors are excited about the T9-1-1 launch,” said Mark Pendergraft, RDOS chair. “This is a progressive piece of technology that is being offered to RDOS citizens, visitors and people traveling in our region. We are striving towards all citizens in all communities being able to communicate with emergency services if required.”

When E-Comm receives a 911 call from a DHHSI person who has pre-registered for the service, an alert will trigger at the 911 centre to indicate there is a DHHSI caller on the line. The 911 call-taker will then launch the special messaging system, allowing them to communicate with the caller through a special text session. This will ensure they get the emergency service they need.