National Association of the Deaf

Access to 9-1-1 Emergency Services



In America, dialing 911 on a telephone or a TTY is supposed to connect the caller automatically to the nearest 9-1-1 emergency service center. With advancing technology, however, this does not always happen automatically, particularly for people who use wireless or mobile devices, such as some cell phones. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing who do not use a telephone or TTY, the process of connecting a 911 call to the nearest 9-1-1 emergency service center can be even more challenging.

To be prepared for an emergency, learn about the 9-1-1 calling features of your communications equipment and services. Access to 9-1-1 emergency services is now available for Internet Protocol Relay (IP Relay) and Video Relay Service (VRS) users. However, to be automatic and most effective, users must keep their IP Relay or VRS provider informed about any change in their physical location (address).

Think about keeping your TTY (with a battery-back up) and a regular telephone land line to reach a 9-1-1 emergency call center when there is a power outage or when there is no Internet access. See Don’t Throw Away Your TTY! [link to Issues & Resources > Emergency Preparedness > Access to 9-1-1 Emergency Services > Don’t Throw Away Your TTY!]

The current 9-1-1 system is based on telephone technology that, for the most part, can only receive voice and TTY calls. Public safety, industry, and government groups are working on developing a Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) system. [link to Issues & Resources > Emergency Preparedness > Access to 9-1-1 Emergency Services > Next Generation 9-1-1] NG9-1-1 will be enabled by an interconnected system of emergency services networks that is capable of handling text, data, images and video from wireless and digital communications devices.

Improved access to 9-1-1 emergency services is good for everyone!

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