NEWS RELEASE: Specialized 9-1-1 text service for Deaf and Speech-Impaired now available on Northern Vancouver Island

Vancouver, B.C.—Northern Vancouver Island has become the second region in B.C. to provide people who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind, Hard-of-Hearing or Speech Impaired (DHHSI) with the ability to contact 9-1-1 through a new specialized text service, called “T9-1-1.” The service is available to residents living within the North Island 9-1-1 Corporation’s service area and is provided by E-Comm—the 9-1-1 answer point serving the North Island, Metro Vancouver and the northern, central and southern interiors of B.C.

“This is a critical move forward for individuals and families who are Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing and those with Speech Impairments,” said Denise Robertson, Executive Director at Island Deaf + Hard of Hearing Centre. “Access to 9-1-1 services must be easily and readily available to everyone, and now we have the technology to make this happen – and here it is. Ensuring safety and access to critical emergency services is paramount and we applaud E-Comm 9-1-1 for providing this service in the North Island area. We know that this will have a very positive impact in our communities and we hope to see this service available for the rest of Vancouver Island in the near future.”

Text with 9-1-1 (T9-1-1) allows any DHHSI person who has pre-registered their cellphone with their wireless carrier to communicate with police, fire and ambulance call-takers via text during an emergency. Callers must first place a voice call to 9-1-1 in order to establish a voice network connection and initiate the special messaging technology.

“T9-1-1 provides our DHHSI community with a better way of communicating with police, fire and ambulance call-takers in an emergency,” said Larry Samson, president of the North Island 9-1-1 Corporation. “I encourage residents with hearing or speech impairments to register for T9-1-1 with their wireless providers and to learn how the service works and what to expect if they need to use it.”

When E-Comm receives a 9-1-1 call from a DHHSI person who has pre-registered for the service, an alert will trigger at the 9-1-1 centre to indicate there is a DHHSI caller on the line. The 9-1-1 call-taker will then launch the special messaging system, allowing them to communicate with the caller through a special text session. This will ensure they get the emergency service they need.

The specialized technology was developed by Canada’s telecommunications services providers and is available in select parts of the country.

“E-Comm was pleased to be the first 9-1-1 centre in Canada to launch T9-1-1 and we are ready to provide this important service to DHHSI residents in the North Island 9-1-1 Corporation’s service area,” added Doug Watson, E-Comm’s vice-president of Operations. “We are proud to have played a part in the development of this service which is a significant improvement over outdated TTY (telephone typewriter) technology.”

It is important to emphasize that this service is only available to the DHHSI community. Voice calling remains the only way to communicate with 9-1-1 services for a person who is not Deaf, Deaf-Blind, Hard-of-Hearing or Speech Impaired. Text messages sent directly to the digits “9-1-1” do not reach emergency services anywhere in Canada. Text with 9-1-1 for the public-at-large is anticipated in the future as the nationwide 9-1-1 infrastructure evolves.

Members of the DHHSI community should visit to register their cellphones with their wireless service provider and to learn more about how the system works.


In support of Speech and Hearing Awareness month in May, E-Comm would like to encourage DHHSI persons to register for  T9-1-1 and to learn how this service works and in the event of an emergency, how to use the service. A variety of public education materials are available online at Materials include a special user guide, infographic with registration tips and step-by-step video in American Sign Language that shows you how to register, how to make a 9-1-1 call and what will happen when you dial 9-1-1 using the Text with 9-1-1 service.

E-Comm is the largest 9-1-1 call centre in B.C., serving Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast and Squamish-Lillooet Regional Districts, the communities of Whistler and Squamish, and 18 regional districts within the northern, central and southern interiors and on northern Vancouver Island. E-Comm also provides dispatch services to 33 police and fire departments throughout the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast and Squamish-Whistler areas, and operates the wide-area radio system used throughout Metro Vancouver by police, fire and ambulance personnel.

The North Island 9-1-1 Corporation service area covers the regional districts of Comox Valley, Strathcona, Mt. Waddington, Alberni-Clayoquot and Powell River (excluding Lasqueti Island), in addition to a portion of the Nanaimo Regional District (School District 69).

Media Contacts:

E-Comm 9-1-1
Jody Robertson
604-215-4956 or 604-512-3242
[email protected]

Island Deaf + Hard of Hearing Center
Denise Robertson
[email protected]