The Regional District of Fraser-Fort George (RDFFG) is unveiling its latest upgrade to emergency personnel response: 9-1-1 texting.

The new service is designed to aid people who are deaf/deaf-blind, hard-of-hearing or speech impaired (DHHSI), according to the district, as it provides the ability to contact 9-1-1 through a new specialized text service called Text with 9-1-1 (T9- 1-1).

Only DHHSI people have access to the service at this point.

“This service is also a game changer for first responders to Deaf and Hard of Hearing people,” says Andrea Palmer, vice president of the Northern B.C. Family Hearing Society.

“Now our children and families can communicate the enhanced information that can save lives in emergencies,” she says.

T9-1-1 allows any DHHSI person who has pre-registered their cellphone with their wireless carrier to communicate with police, fire and ambulance call-takers via text during an emergency, according to the district.

Callers must fire place a voice call to 9-1-1 in order to establish a voice network connection, and then operators will initiate the special messaging technology.

When E-Comm receives a 9-1-1 call from a DHHSI person who has re-registered for the service, the district says an alert will sound at the 9-1-1 centre to indicate there is a DHHSI caller on the line.

The 9-1-1 operator will then launch the special messaging system, which the district says will allow them to communicate with the caller via a specialized text session, thus ensuring they get the emergency services they need.

“E-Comm is pleased to be the first 9-1-1 centre in Canada to launch T9-1-1,” says David Guscott, E-Comm president and CEO.

“We are proud to have played a part in the development of this service, which is a significant improvement over outdated technology,” he says.

The new service is available to residents in the RDFFG, but also to those in the regional districts of Cariboo, Kitimat-Stikine and Bulkley-Nechako who pre-register with wireless providers.

The emergency communications centre responsible for answering 9-1-1 calls in the northern interior, E-Comm, is providing the new service.

“This will make a real and significant difference,” says Palmer. “It will save lives.”

The specialized technology was developed collaboratively by Canada’s telecommunications service providers, according to E-Comm, and the service is available in other select parts of the country.

For a person who is not DHHSI, the district says that calling remains the only way to communicate with 9-1-1 services, however, the district says the service for the public-at-large is anticipated in the future as the infrastructure evolves.

It is worth noting, text messages sent directly to the digits 9-1-1 do not reach emergency services anywhere in Canada, according to E-Comm.

Members of the DHHSI community are encouraged to visit to register their cellphones with their wireless service provider and to learn more about how the system works.