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The Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service has launched an SMS text service to enable deaf, hearing and speech impaired people to contact the service by text in an emergency.
This initiative was developed by Karen Campbell from the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service’s Fire Control, the 24/7 team who are the vital link in an emergency response, handling 999 calls, mobilising fire engines and crews and communicating with all the other agencies involved in incidents. The system has been developed in partnership with the Lancashire Constabulary.
Karen Campbell explained more: “People who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired are not able to use a standard telephone to communicate and have difficulty in contacting the Fire and Rescue Service directly, relying on other people to do it for them. By using a special text number, people in this client group can text an emergency message to the Fire and Rescue Service or Police asking for help.
“The text message to Fire Control will be acted upon in the same way and with the same urgency that a standard telephone 999 call would be. As soon as the text message is received an automated bounce-back message is sent to acknowledge receipt. Once transmitted to the Fire Service the message is converted using 2Ergo technology into an e-mail format which is accessed by Fire Control operators. Upon replying to the e-mail the same technology once again converts the data back into a text format which is received on the caller’s mobile phone.”
Messages to number 66247 are appropriately prefixed depending on the service required – “FIRE”, “POLICE” etc. Lancashire stress that this service is only to be used when reporting an emergency and is only available for people in the Lancashire area who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired, and that misuse of the text service may result in prosecution.
The service was launched on 17 January 2008, and since that time 14 genuine emergency texts have been received for all three emergency services. According to Sarah Wilson, Control Manager at Lancashire Fire, over 40 test calls have been received. Feedback from the public includes the following comments: “We were very impressed. We had an acknowledgement within 10 seconds saying the Fire and Rescue Service would get back to us and a reply within about one and a half minutes of our original call”, and; "Thank you so much. It is an excellent service and I will promote it to all my contacts.”
Further information can be obtained by visiting the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service website at www.lancsfirerescue.org.uk.
Caption: Firefighter (Control) Karen Campbell (on the left) who was instrumental in conducting the research into the service and bringing the project to fruition in Lancashire Fire and Rescue. Next to her is a sign language interpreter who was signing the launch to the deaf/hearing impaired guests who were invited to the launch day.