Calling 911 when you are hard of hearing

April 12, 2017.  If you’ve ever had to call 911 in an emergency, you know how stressful that is.  You try to stay calm so the 911 Operator will be able to understand you and send help.  You have to concentrate on the questions being asked so that you get the right sort of help – whether you need an ambulance, a fire truck, or the police.  In an emergency, you need to focus on giving out the right information, sometimes in a panic situation, or in the midst of a lot of noise and commotion.

How do you deal with a 911 call if you are hard of hearing?  Sometimes you are the only person able to make the call!  Luckily, technology has helped to improve 911 protocols for the hard of hearing.  Since December 1, 2016, a pan-Canadian wide system called Text 911, or T-911, is available in many (not all) Canadian localities.  Only P.E.I., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have this service province-wide, though.

Recently, the PEI Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, the Province’s 911 Service, and Island EMS tested the protocols for 911 access by the hard of hearing to ensure it works.  It does!  You have two options: to dial 911 or to use the new Text 911, also called T-911.

Step by step instructions for both options are available here: Dial 911 text 911 guidelines

During the exercise to test the system, a few suggestions for better communication emerged:

  • Let the 911 Operator know if you are alone, or if someone is in the house with you. For example, if you are babysitting a grandchild, or you have a family member who is asleep or ill and may not be aware of your call, it’s important to pass along that information.  You wouldn’t want to be taken to the hospital and leave someone behind!
  • If you call from a cell phone or an internet based phone system (such as Ooma), tell the operator your location! Otherwise, 911 will not know where you are.
  • Let the operator know of any allergies, or if there are animals in the house. Always keep a list of medications on hand.
  • Make sure you have a plan in place to let emergency responders into the house.

Do you have further tips for Dial 911 or Text 911?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

© Daria Valkenburg


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