UK Emergency Center Accepts Text Messages

UK Emergency Center Accepts Text Messages

February 2005

Editor: I’m trying to work with our county to insure that their emergency preparedness planning considers the needs of people with hearing loss. One thing I always suggest for 911 call centers and emergency centers is the ability to send and receive text messages. So far, they’re not convinced. But we’re happy to report that some emergency systems in the UK have adopted this system. Note that their emergency number is ‘999″, not ‘911’.

This article is reprinted with permission.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From the newsroom of the Express and Star, Wolverhampton, United Kingdom, Tuesday, February 8, 2005 …..

Text police for 999 help
By Sue Smith

Thousands of people in Worcestershire will be able to text police for help instead of dialing 999 in an emergency under a new pioneering scheme.

They will be able to send text messages to West Mercia Police central management for help from officers as well as fire and ambulance crews.

West Mercia Police has become one of the first in the country to introduce a short-code text message number.

The special life-saving service could help thousands of people and particularly those who are deaf or have hearing or speech problems.

In the past some people have faced difficulties or been unable to dial 999 in an emergency.

Charities such as Deaf Direct have been calling for help in easing the plight of the 140,000 people in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire who are thought to have some form of hearing loss.

The force is introducing the service with backing from Deaf Direct, the Royal National Institute for the Deaf and all the emergency services.

Mobile phone company Vodafone has supported the scheme financially but it has also been made available across all networks.

Charity groups and police stations are being used to help promote the new service.

Leaflets giving the text number and containing a wallet or purse-sized plastic reminder card are now being handed out to callers at local police stations.

Supt John Jones said: “Nothing is more important than responding to an emergency. The text message number could provide a life-saving service.

Mr Philip Gerrard, director of Deaf Direct, said: “We are delighted that the need for easily accessible emergency services has been recognised.”

Police have warned anyone thinking of sending hoax emergency text messages that the penalty for doing so is up to six months imprisonment and a fine of up to £2,500.

Officers also have the ability to trace and block mobile phones.

(c) Express & Star, 1997-2005