Friday, November 12, 2010

Hundreds of deaf people in New Zealand sign up for emergency texting service

From 3 News in New Zealand:

An emergency 111 text service has had a ‘pleasing’ take up within the Deaf community, according to police.

The new service was started on October 15 with the aim to improve Deaf and hearing impaired peoples access to the three emergency services.

Police Communications Centres National Manager Superintendent Andy McGregor says he is pleased with the uptake and use to date.

"This is a new service and we're starting small with Deaf and hearing impaired people who can't use a phone to call 111.”

So far more than 400 people have registered to the service and there has been five emergency texts received. The requests were for fire (one), police (two) and ambulance (two).

“The feedback we've had from the Deaf community is that it's very reassuring for them to have this means of contacting emergency services.

“Deaf and hearing impaired people are big users of text, so we’re delighted to be able to offer them a service that will put them on a par with the hearing population and better meet their needs,” says Mr McGregor.

Police worked closely with Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand, the New Zealand Fire Service and St John to develop the new service.

“We want the freedom to live our lives in the same manner as any hearing person, and this includes our ability to contact emergency services,” says Rachel Noble, Chief Executive of Deaf Aotearoa.

Emergency texts from registered users are received in the Police Communications Centre. If it's a fire or medical emergency, details are passed through electronically to the Fire Service or ambulance services for dispatch.