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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Synopsis of Gary's Visit at Dauphin County EMA 9-1-1 Call Center

Today's guest writer is Gary Bootay. Gary sent an email to me about his visit to the Dauphin County EMA. He shares with us some important FCC mandates for text only phones that many in the Deaf Community are unaware of, as well as some fascinating "futuristic" technological information. Thank you, Gary for sharing this!

On Jul 17, 2012, at 11:25 AM, Gary Bootay wrote:

Yesterday morning I had a wonderful and educational time at the Dauphin County EMA call center where all the 9-1-1 phones and terminals are.  Walking in the large darkened futuristic basement was like being at an airport control center with a dozen employees busy on their large screen terminals.  Gregory Kline, who knows Jerry Penna, is the manager of technical systems and programs - he took me on a tour with another employee named Joe.  Jenice was our interpreter.

I told them my biggest concern was that I could not dial 9-1-1 with my text-only cell phone in case of an emergency.  According to Greg that texting technology is being worked on and will be available in the future.  However, I got some very good news when I was informed that the FCC requires ALL CELL PHONES to have voice capability to call 9-1-1.  My cell phone does not have the voice chip, just the texting chip.  I did not want to pay more than double the monthly fee for voice which will "never be used" as I'm profoundly deaf.  Look at your phone bill and you will see a $1.00 monthly charge for 9-1-1 access. I thought I did not have voice access and paid for a service I could not use.  I demonstrated my frustration by typing a trial message then dialing 9-1-1 only to receive a message from the phone company saying "this service is not available".

Now I bet you are concerned about what I meant about the GOOD NEWS...

I was told to open my cell phone without texting a message and simply dial 9-1-1 directly.  The phone rang and was answered by the 9-1-1 call center!!!  Greg and Joe were with me during this demonstration.  Next Joe, Jenice and I went outside on the parking lot and dialed 9-1-1 again (the call center was forewarned not to send the police).  Then we went inside and saw, on the terminal screen, three tiny dots (our heads) in the parking lot in vivid color from a satellite directly 100+ miles overhead which located the 9-1-1 call via GPS.  This was Star Wars fantastic!

What this means is that a deaf person with a text-only phone can call 9-1-1 if that county's call center has the technology.  The voice call is available even without the voice chip!  If at all possible, it is a good idea to speak your name, where you are, and the reason for the call...just keep repeating.  Someone will understand what you are saying and don't worry that you cannot hear their response.  The             satellite GPS can locate you outdoors or in a motor vehicle but not inside a building.  There is no extra charge for calling 9-1-1.

This was a worthy and educational visit.  All deaf and hard of hearing users of text-only cell phones should be informed of this capability.  I was not aware of it and was erroneously told I could not call 9-1-1 with a text-only phone.

Gary Bootay

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