York Region launches new Text to 911 service

The York Regional Police Service is the second in Ontario to offer this service to the community

For most people, calling 911 in an emergency is a no-brainer. It could make the difference in saving someone’s life. But what happens if you can’t communicate with the operator?

On Wednesday, York Regional Police announced their newest service, Text to 911. The service will make communicating with emergency dispatchers much more accessible to the deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired.

“The ability to text 911 is paramount to safety for people who are deaf or hard of hearing,” said Toronto Association of the Deaf Treasurer David Rosenbaum. “With the many communication options that technology has to offer nowadays, public services and businesses need to use these technologies to accommodate these constituents.”

The York Regional Police Service is the second police service in Ontario to offer the ability to text 911. The text service is only available for the deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired, and will not be offered to the general public. It will give members of these communities the ability to call 911, and then correspond with emergency dispatchers via text while still listening to what is going on in the background.

According to Const. Andy Pattenden’s media release, this service must be registered with the individual’s wireless provider. Once they have registered, they can dial 911 in an emergency, and emergency responders will initiate the texting session.

“The cost to provide this accommodation to deaf people is minimal, but it provides the necessary safety and peace of mind that deaf Canadians should be entitled to,” Rosenbaum said.

A tutorial about how to use the system is offered at textwith911.ca