By Jerome Lessard, The Intelligencer
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
While texting can be dangerous in certain situations, in others, it could save your life.
As part of its 2014 budget and in a means to reach out to those with hearing and speech impairments, Belleville police look forward to implementing Text-to-911 by the end of the year.
Text-to-911 is the ability to communicate with 911 operators via text messages from a cellphone and other devices.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced the 911-service enhancements in January 2013 following a trial in 2012 to assess the feasibility of rolling out such a service nationally.
For people who are not deaf, hard of hearing or do not have speech impairments, a phone call is still the only way to receive assistance during an emergency situation. Furthermore, the CRTC reminds residents text messages sent to 911 do not reach emergency services, but 911 operators who will transfer the information and request for service to appropriate emergency responders.
Belleville’s police chief, Cory McMullan, noted Text-to-911 is a mandated service the city police force must provide to enhance the initial service offered to those with hearing and speech impairments who have pre-registered.
“Those individuals will have to register for this service to make sure they have the same access to emergency services,” she said.
McMullan is waiting for final cost-related information and infrastructure requirements Belleville police may need to implement before the new 911 feature is made available. Among additional capital items totalling more than $320,000 in its 2014 proposed budget, $20,000 was put forward towards implementing Text-to-911.
“It has to be in place before the end of this year,” she added.
Eventually, added the chief, Text-to-911 will be further enhanced and made available to everyone in the community.
“They are also looking at implementing video-to-911 and photo-to-911,” she said.
“This has yet to be defined, but it will give users the option of texting a video or a photo of an emergency situation they have witnessed or in case someone has to hide from an assaulter and cannot speak to call for help.”
Colette Tanner, 911 co-ordinator with the County of Hastings, noted Bell Canada is working with local emergency agencies and partners to complete the upgrades, with roll-out plans still being finalized.
“Meanwhile, each agency is responsible for upgrading their equipment to receive fibre data,” she said.
“Each wireless provider is responsible for registering users in the 911 data base system, so when the device is registered and calls 911 it will appear with an identifier that notifies the call taker this call must be handled using texting either in English or French.”
Tanner anticipates once all emergency-related agencies in Hastings County are upgraded and ready to roll, the call will be transferred to the required downstream agency, who will then take over the texting session.
“It’s important to note that these users must first dial 911 and then wait for a text response from the answering agency,” she added.