Mobile tech for the deaf provides blueprint for emergency services

A mobile phone text service designed to help deaf, hearing and speech impaired people contact their local fire or police station in seconds, is providing the blueprint for mobile communications within the nation’s emergency services.

The service, developed by 2ergo, a global provider of mobile enabling technology, has been successfully piloted with Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS), which reports that the scheme is receiving two genuine emergency text messages a month within the region. Its effectiveness has now led to 2ergo working with several other regional fire and police services to increasingly roll out the scheme nationwide to the nine million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK.

The technology behind the scheme is 2ergo’s highly interactive, web-based messaging service, Mobile Campaign Manager, which allows organisations to create and send personalised messages via SMS, MMS and email from one source, to audiences ranging from hundreds to millions.

Mobile Campaign Manager was tailored for Lancashire’s emergency services, to allow people with hearing or speech impairments to text the service directly and immediately, stating the assistance they require, ‘FIRE’ or ‘POLICE’. The software application then translates this text message into an email format, which is instantly delivered to the emergency control centre to alert the operator.

The service allows the operator to communicate directly with the victim and, via their email system, ask for more information or communicate vital details. The email message is then translated into a text message which is sent to the mobile handset – creating a two way conversation that could prove lifesaving. For added peace of mind, 2ergo also designed the service so that it confirms receipt of the text message, by texting back a delivery report, informing the individual that help is on its way.

Chris Brassington, group managing director at 2ergo, commented: “With the mobile and smartphone fast becoming the nation’s number one method of communication, the possibilities for mobile marketing and communications technology are endless. This successful pilot scheme with the LFRS demonstrates how the mobile can perform a key role within the public sector and make a real difference to those who find it difficult to contact the emergency services at a critical time. Increasing mobile communication between vital services and the general public can only help bolster the government’s digital inclusion strategy.”

Karen Campbell, from the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service’s Fire Control, added: “The service 2ergo has helped us provide for the local deaf community is invaluable. When people contact the emergency services, it is often at a time of panic and upset, but for individuals with hearing and speech impairments, they have the added frustration of the difficulties in communicating the problem. With this text message service, we have been able to achieve our goal; a simple communication service that makes a once difficult task far easier. The number of emergency texts already received and acted upon by the LFRS control room is evidence that this service is working superbly.”