For 9-1-1 dispatcher Dawn Coombs, communication is critical.
She has to be able to understand the calls that are coming in, and know the information she’s relaying back is being understood. That can be a challenge when it comes to someone with a speech or hearing impairment.
But that’s changing thanks to a program that allows residents to text 9-1-1 dispatchers.
“At least this way when they’re typing the message it’s very clear, we know exactly where to send police, fire or ambulance without any question,” Coombs said.
In December the Kawartha Lakes police service joined other police services across the province, setting up the Text With 9-1-1 program.
It’s easy to use. Users still dial 9-1-1, but the call then reverts to text and dispatchers begin texting back, asking for the information needed to handle the emergency.
Kawartha Lakes police Sgt. Tom Hickey says all residents should be able to communicate with emergency services at all times.
“There have been barriers that have prevented us from getting the information we need, so this is just another step in removing those barriers,” Hickey said.
Right now the service is only available to those with hearing and speech impairments. The police service says texting is time-consuming, and too many text messages could slow the system down in an emergency.
The service is free for those who may need it, and users can sign up online through their cellphone providers.
“And on that website you register with your service provider, and with that the service becomes registered with services across Canada,” said Debbie Hemminger, with the Kawartha Lakes police service.
To sign up visit textwith911.ca.