Are you signed up to text 999 (in the UK)? I wasn’t until very recently but I am now. It’s very simple to do (follow the instructions on www.emergencysms.org.uk) and is designed so that people with hearing difficulties or speech problems can easily get help in an emergency. Once signed up, you can send a text to 999 with the information you would give on the telephone (what the problem is, where exactly it is happening and which service you need). The emergency services then text you back within two or three minutes. That’s slower than ringing them but if you can’t make a call it could be a lifesaver. Indeed, the emergency services report that they have successfully handled hundreds of emergency SMS texts – “criminals have been arrested, lives have been saved and babies have been born safely”. I’m hoping not to be involved in delivering any babies but you never know what else might happen……
Over 214,000 people with a hearing loss or speech difficulty have registered for the 999 text service since it was first set up in 2009 (thank you Limping Chicken for the information). That sounds like a lot, but given there are about 900,000 people with severe or profound deafness in the UK maybe the service needs some more publicity. Tell your friends.
I’ve known about Emergency SMS for quite a while, and sometimes remembered it whilst out fell walking with Nigel and Izzy. What if there was an accident, Nigel was incapacitated and I couldn’t hear to use the phone? We’ve never had an accident in the hills, thank heavens, but our local paper carries weekly reports from our local mountain rescue service of people falling, hitting their heads, breaking limbs and having to be rescued. I MUST do something about this, I would think, but I never got round to it.
I didn’t because I had a hopeless phone. Actually, that is terribly unfair. It was a very good Doro phone bought from the Action on Hearing Loss shop in 2010 when I first retired. It had very good amplification and was fine for a while, until my hearing’s gradual decline meant that no amount of telephone amplification was any help. I could of course text on it, but it was a pre-smartphone three-options-to-every-button phone and the concept of trying to use it to text in an emergency faintly risible.
Talking of texting, I didn’t. A lot of deaf people love texting, for obvious reasons. Indeed so do some of my friends with quite normal hearing. But there is no mobile phone signal inside our house (we live on the side of a hillside, facing a wood, with the nearest transmitter the other side of said hillside). We have an iPad. I email. That’s great. It was annoying not to be in touch with friends who text and don’t like e mail but what was the point of buying a smartphone so I could text, if I couldn’t text from indoors? I put off and put off…….
Then there was the Next Generation Text issue (are you still with me? what a tedious tale of technology). Readers of this blog will know just how much I love NGTS. I use it in the house with the iPad (that’s where you read the text translation of the voice of the person who is calling you) but I couldn’t use it out of the house. However, you CAN get NGTS on a smartphone, given a strong enough signal. Apart from the convenience of making phone calls when out and about for all manner of reasons it has occurred to me more than once that driving around in a ten year old car with breakdown cover is fine, but how do I contact the breakdown provider if the worst happens?? Can’t make a phone call……..
So, just before Christmas I finally got round to buying a modern phone (a Samsung Galaxy as it happens), registering it for Emergency SMS and for Next Generation Text. I got some advice from a friend who knows about these things (thank you Deb). I checked which provider gave the best coverage in this area. It turned out to be O2, who were offering appointments with an O2 Guru. I’m of the generation where the word “guru” immediately brings to mind the Maharishi of Beatles fame, so that raised a smile, but the guru turned out to be a friendly, helpful and not-at-all-patronising young man in a shop in Skipton. The problem of the lack of signal in the house was solved in a moment with a free app (TU Go) which allows you (on an O2 contract) to use the phone by linking it to your domestic Wi-Fi. He sorted me out in no time and loaded the most relevant apps before I left the shop. It cost me less than I thought it would too. (This is not meant to sound like an ad for O2 – it just happened to be the best signal round here).
So I can now text easily, I’m on WhatsApp, I can use Next Generation Text when I’m out of the house – goodness, how modern. And I could use the phone to text 999 in an emergency, which gives me quite a lot of peace of mind.
PS A blocked ears update will follow quite soon. Some progress…..but slow.