911 for hard of hearing working well

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An emergency is not a good time to test whether a system is working properly.

The PEI Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA) wanted to make sure the province’s Text with 911 program, which began last fall, was working like a well-oiled machine. Turns out it is.

Members of CHHA contacted the province’s acting 911 Coordinator Pat Kelly, who went to their monthly meeting to explain the process. Then they went a step further and tested it in a boardroom exercise, and again using testing protocols during Emergency Preparedness week with two more people who are hard of hearing.

“Living on a small island is a blessing. Public Safety and Island EMS listened to our concerns, and offered a live exercise,” said CHHA Advocacy and Public Relations Officer Daria Valkenburg.

“Now we are convinced it works, and it's eased everyone's mind.”

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, fire response, or the police,” Valkenburg explained.

“In an emergency, you need to focus on giving the right information, sometimes in a panic situation, or in the midst of a lot of noise and commotion. When you have a problem hearing what is being said, your anxiety levels go up even more. Having protocols in place that offer two additional methods of accessibility is important.”

Kelly went above and beyond the call of duty, Valkenburg said, explaining that he helped Chapter members who had trouble registering their cell phones for the Text with 911 service. In one case, the phone was outdated and couldn't access the service. In the other situations, he called the phone companies that the cell phones were with, and made sure registration worked for them, she said.

“We've been told that we're the only hard of hearing group in Canada to have been allowed to test the protocols -- it's a testament to the cooperation that we have received on this project,” she said.

The group gave Island EMS a “pocket talker” a portable device that amplifies sound.

“We are grateful to the province for providing the 911 protocols pamphlets for us. As a small organization, this was a project we would have had to raise funds for otherwise,” she said. “Everyone we have dealt with has been receptive and accommodating in listening to our concerns and suggestions.”

Learn more about the Text to 911 service available only to those with hearing or speech impairments.

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