See this page in ASL in the video above!
Basic 911 Information
Emergencies do not happen very often, but when they do, you want to be ready. The best way to handle any emergency is to be prepared for one before it happens. Know what to do ahead of time and try to stay in control. For Deaf, deafened or hard or hearing individuals, calling 911 has some significant barriers. Understanding what to do and what the barriers are fundamental to getting the help you need when you need it.
In 1968 9-1-1 was established as the national emergency number for the United States which allows a caller anywhere in the US to access police, fire and ambulance services. This same service was established in Canada in 1972.
However, the current 911 system in both Canada and the US was originally designed for voice-to-voice communication, which makes calling 911 with a TTY, voice carry over (VCO) phone, or amplified phones difficult at best. There have been many upgrades and attempts to create an equitable 911system, but there are significant technological challenges that prevent successful interfacing with any form of texting.
Until the next generation of 911 (NG-911) system is fully developed and available in Canada, it is important to understand the limitations of the current 911 system and to be aware of what you need to do when making a 911 call.
Although most 911 calls are now traced, it is still important for you to be able to confirm your address and provide as much information as possible to the 911 operator. People are often frightened in an emergency, but it is important to stay calm, and give as much detail to the operator as possible. In some cases, the emergency dispatcher may be able to provide some first aid instructions before the secondary services arrive on site.
As with fire safety escape plans, you should have practice times and discussions with your family on how to access 911 in an emergency. If you do not regularly use your TTY for out going calls, you should practice the basic steps at least once a month and become familiar with some short forms. This is especially crucial for children with a hearing loss who may need to use 911.
If you use a VCO phone or an amplified phone know your choices of how best to reach 911. If you are unsure contact your local CHS office for more information.
Some communities offer a registration or flagging process. Find out from your local 911 service provider if you can register your address into their system. This can assist the 911 operator when you call. It will let the 911 operator know someone at the address has a hearing loss and may need help even if they cannot communicate their needs.
- Understand what you need to do ahead of time
- Know your system and know your options
- Practice the basics every month to become comfortable
- Place 911 instructions by your TTY or VCO phone
- When you have a real life situation to deal with you might forget or panic; instructions nearby will help you
- Keep your devices plugged in or fully charged so it will work in an emergency. If your telephone device is electrically powered keep fresh batteries near your device at all times.
- Make sure your house number is easily visible from the street so that police, fire and ambulance can find your home easily
- Find out if you can register your address into the 911 system in your municipality to alert them to the fact that you are Deaf, deafened or hard of hearing.
- Contacting 911 via BRS (Bell Rely Service) does not provide the 911 operator your location and your number. In a life-threatening situation calling BRS for your emergency will add some significant delays on getting you the help you need.
Definitions & Process
Some communities offer a registration or flagging process. This can assist the 911 operator when you call. It will let the 911 operator know someone at the address has a hearing loss and may need help even if they cannot communicate their needs. Find out from your local 911 service provider if you can register your address into their system. If you want a registration process in your community contact your local CHS office for more information.
Dead or Silent Lines/Hang Ups/Pocket Dials:
Dead or silent lines are those calls that come into the 911 dispatch center and no voice communication or TTY tones are heard. Depending on the municipality, these calls may be given a lower priority. Many variables are considered by each dispatcher when dealing with dead or silent calls. There could be:
- Delays involved in dispatching the needed secondary services (Fire, EMS and Police) due to other known events in the community
- Delays in dispatching the appropriate services (e.g. Police instead of Ambulance)
Dialling 911 and leaving your line open where there is NO communication (no voice, or TTY tones heard and no typed message) may not guarantee you priority dispatching in a timely manner. Each municipality will have its own processes for dead or silent lines. The 911 operator needs to receive some information from you to know what type of service to send - Police, Ambulance or Fire. In the event that the operator receives a dead or silent call, they will dispatch police services ONLY and only if the call has been placed on a landline. If a dead or silent call has been placed on a cell phone, the operator will not have location information readily available to dispatch any services to you.
When you are using a TTY, ensure that at a minimum you hit the space bar a few times to activate the TTY tones. The operator will at least know that there is someone on the line that requires emergency assistance. Do your best to remain calm and type some message to the operator even the word "HELP" or "EMS please" would at least alert the operator to the fact that there is someone on the line needing assistance.
Landlines are telephone lines that connect into your wall jack. Most people have newer telephones that also require electrical power. If the power goes out your telephone may not work. Some landline telephones may have battery back up and will continue to work for a short period without electricity. Consumers need to check to see what type of telephone line they have and if their telephone will continue to work in the event of an emergency.
Voice-Over Internet Protocol
VOIP are telephone lines that work over the internet and involves a computer. Computers need electricity and if you do not have power, you will not have access to 911.
Battery-Operated Telephone Equipment
Many new telephones, amplified phones and cordless phones require electrical power and are battery operated. If your power goes out and your battery runs out then you will not have telephone access and no access to 911. Amplified telephones may still work with landline connections but the amplification feature will not work. There are some portable volume enhancers that are battery operated; you should keep these nearby and have extra batteries available in case of an emergency.
When should I call 911?
A 911 emergency is a situation in which someone needs immediate help because he or she is injured, sick or in immediate danger. Here are some examples of when you should call 911:
- There is a fire
- Someone is unconscious after an accident, drinking too much or an overdose of pills or drugs etc.
- Someone is having trouble breathing because of something like an asthma attack or a seizure etc.
- Someone is choking or having a heart attack
- You see a crime being committed, like a break-in or a mugging
- Someone is threatening you and you need help immediately
- You feel you need immediate medical help
In some cities, officials estimate that as many as 75% of the calls made to 911 are non-emergency calls. These are not all pranks. Some people accidentally push the emergency button on their cell phones. Others do not realize that 911 is for true emergencies only and are not for such things as a flat tire or about a theft that occurred the week before. These incidents need to be reported to your local police station but not via 911.
Whenever an unnecessary call is made to 911, it can delay a response to someone who actually needs it. If someone dials 911 on a landline as a prank or misdials, emergency personnel will be dispatched directly to that location. These unnecessary calls into 911 could mean life or death for someone having a real emergency.
Texting to 911 for Deaf, Deafened and Hard of Hearing Individuals
I will take a moment to explain the new T911 system and how you can help ensure this system will work well for you when you need it in a life-threatening emergency.
Texting to 911, known as T911 for those with wireless devices, is presently in development. In order to ensure this is an efficient service, T9-1-1 will only be available for those with a hearing loss or speech difficulties. The general hearing population will not have access to this service at this time. The technical trials and consumer trial phase is due to begin in February of 2012 and the proposed launch date could be as early as the summer of 2012 but has not been confirmed.
The next step in the process is to make sure the system is working well for those that will be using the service. As the process nears the launch date, it is very important that there is input from the people that will be using the system; that means you!
What does this all mean?
The Emergency Services Working Group needs to recruit people who live or work in the Toronto area and the Peel area to take part in the trials. In order to participate in the trials you need to be a cell phone user and MUST live or work in either one of these municipalities. The results of these trials will provide information on:
- how well T911 callers can access the 911 Centre
- how the 911 operators handle the incoming text calls
- how well the technical system works
- problems that are identified
Requirements and Expectations for the Participant:
Here are some of the things you need to know if you want to be a participant?
- test calls are intended for the trials only and NOT for actual emergency calls
- if you have a real emergency you need to call 911 the way you are used to calling and do not use your cell phone – it will NOT work for you in a real emergency until after the launch date
- test calls will be scheduled
- you cannot place a test call during non-scheduled times
- participants will be given scripts to follow to assist in making the calls
- participants must be registered to take part in the T911 trials
- this is the only way the system will know you are a T911 caller. If you are not registered for the trial your calls will not work
- participants will require a compatible cell phone to take part in the trials (a list will be provided)
- If your cell phone is not compatible, you will not be able to take part in the trial and you will not be able to access T911 after the launch. If you have a SIM card in your phone you will likely have a compatible cell phone
- feedback must be provided by the participant
- you will be asked to provide feedback on what was good, or what didn't work, to help identify areas of concern that need to be addressed before the launch
- those cell phones registered to the participant for the trial are the only ones that can be used during the trial phase
- do not use another person's cell phone for the trial – it will not work. Only your cell phone that is registered can be used and only you can place the calls during the trial.
- support will be provided to trial participants as required during the trial
- you will have a few options for support; your wireless service provider (Rogers, TELUS, Bell and Wind Mobile) and me; Mandy Conlon. Contact information will be provided to you once you register for the trial.
With your help, we can make the T911 trial a success