Text 999 (and other stuff about phones)

Copyright: Krisdog / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: Krisdog / 123RF Stock Photo

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.


11 thoughts on “Text 999 (and other stuff about phones)

  1. My feelings as well! I now need to use my mobile and iPad to make an NGTS call. I normally use the PC along with my house phone but have now linked my iPad to my mobile. I am assuming an NGTS call can be made on the mobile when out of the house?

    1. Hi there. Yes, it’s working for me. The O2 chap downloaded the NGTS app to my phone. I’ve only used it a couple of times and still find it a bit fiddly, but I’m getting there. You dial the number you want to ring (with the NGTS prefix) and then leave that screen to go into the NGTS app, which behaves just as you expect it to……”ring ring….ring ring….waiting for NGTS operator…..etc”. Good luck. Hope you sort it out. Vera.

  2. Thanks for telling us how to register a mobile. Now I know. I eventually managed it but it proved to be quite difficult because the text messages which came through while I was trying to register had chunks missing. So there was a bit of backwards and forwarding, but I managed it in the end

    Just one small issue. For ages I was puzzled by references to ‘SMS’. I wondered what it might be? Was it some function on the phone I had overlooked? And for months I didn’t know, although by then I had been texting for ages. Then somebody kindly told me it was a synonym for ‘text’. But if nobody has told you, how are you to know? So maybe this short comment will enlighten somebody else who is not totally au fait with the jargon either…

    1. Oh Ivan you are so right. The jargon!! I should have explained SMS because that mystified me until recently too. To be honest, the jargon around mobile phones was one of the things that also put me off getting a new one. 3G? 4G?
      Android? And worse things that I can’t remember…… Going to see the guru chap was really good, because I could just say to him “I want to do this with it” and he could say “OK, you need this – here is the cheapest deal to get it.” Thank you tech gurus everywhere…….

  3. Hi Vera
    I too recently registered with the emergency sms service following an article forwarded by a friend on Facebook. I registered hubby’s phone too – you never know. I have to say I would encourage the providers to advertise this service more as, prior to the Facebook article, I had never heard of it! And for a deaf, tech savvie person who has spent her career in telecoms, that’s shocking.

    Glad the new phone is working out well. Spooky you chose a Galaxy. I love mine and use it primarily as a camera, then as a phone/emailer/texter. Hope the ears keep improving.

    1. Hello Deb. Yep, if you’d never heard of it it’s not surprising that take-up could be better? It’s a good reason to keep up with websites like the Limping Chicken, too, because they cover all manner of deaf stuff. Take care.

  4. Thanks for prompting me Vera – I’m now registered. As you say, let’s hope we never have to use it. Mind you, I’ve thought about it a few times, usually when upside down under a bridge in what appears to be the middle of nowhere. The things we get up to when we retire!

  5. Thank you for that, have now registered my phone for emergency text! Have kept intending doing so but you reminded me!

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