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911 announces text availability

McCreary County 911 Director Jimmy Barnett and Assistant Director Willie Duncan announced a new feature that will allow hearing impaired callers to directly communicate with the center, possibly saving lives in the process.

Duncan stated the service was used for the first time last week when the staff was contacted by a caller using a TTY (text telephone) connection.

While already installed on the system, the program for interfacing through TTY wasn’t turned on yet.

“We knew this day was coming, and we knew we had the capability,” Duncan said.

The system is designed to be used by hearing impaired callers, but will also soon be available to all cell phone users.

The way it works is simple – a hearing impaired individual can simply dial 911 through their TTY-enabled device and it will connect with the local dispatch center.

The local dispatcher will see a notification pop up on their computer screen, telling them that the caller is using a TTY device.

A special interface on the computer allows the dispatcher to communicate through text to the caller, and will be able to gather the necessary information to alert emergency personnel if needed.

“This is a gigantic leap forward,” Barnett said. “We are really excited about this.”

Barnett said TTY services through 911 will be a requirement for all statewide systems by 2020, and the McCreary County system is already capable of the projected new standards.

“We are always trying to stay ahead so we are ready for anything that comes at us.”

Not only will TTY accessibility be a benefit for hearing impaired individuals, it can eventually be used by call phone users who do not have enough signal for a phone call, but can still text – allowing them to contact 911 in an emergency situation.

Callers can activate the TTY interface on most cell phones by accessing the function in settings.

Individuals with hearing disabilities can contact the several hearing impaired foundations for assistance getting TTY devices for their use.

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