P.E.I. government announces 911 texting service

The P.E.I. government announced a new 911 texting option for residents with hearing or speech impairments to communicate with an operator during an emergency.

Beginning Sept. 1, Islanders with hearing or speech impairments can text 911 operator

P.E.I. residents with hearing or speech impairments will be able to communicate with 911 operators through texting on Sept. 1. (CBC)

Beginning Sept. 1, Prince Edward Islanders with hearing loss will be able to communicate with 911 operators by texting.

"Text with 911 technology will provide better access to emergency services for Islanders who have challenges speaking to or hearing a 911 operator over the phone," said Premier Wade MacLauchlan in a press release on Tuesday.

Pre-register with wireless provider

Anyone requiring the service, which is only available to Islanders who are deaf, deafened, hard of hearing or have speech impairments, must pre-register with their wireless provider. Friends and family members of a resident with hearing or speech impairments that share a cell phone can also register.

 "Now people will be able to be independent and make those calls themselves. It gives them a sense of security that they're able to keep their independence, stay in their home, and deal with emergency issues when they arise," said Marcia Carroll, executive director of the P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities.

Once the service is operational, registered Islanders experiencing an emergency will be able to phone 911, and then the operator will receive a notification to continue the conversation by text messaging.

"The text message process is within seconds, the same as if you're texting with your mother or father. The messages are coming through just as quick. The difference is it is on a 911 network, so it will come through with a little higher priority," said Pat Kelly, 911 Provincial Coordinator.

The province paid the service's $80,000 start up cost. Nova Scotia was first province to bring in this technology in 2015. Before today, P.E.I. was one of last two provinces to bring it in.

With files from Steve Bruce