National Association of the Deaf

Don’t Throw Away Your TTY!



Today’s technology presents our community with many communication choices.  We can text message our boss on a cell phone, IM our kids on a PDA (like a Sidekick or Blackberry device), and chat with our moms through a videophones or video relay service.  We have communication gizmos and gadgets we can throw in our purse, hang on our belt, or clip to our backpack.  We have gotten so used to different and often quicker, clearer modes of communication that some of us only use our TTYs as a doorstop or to remind us of the old days.  Who could blame us for wanting to abandon the TTY when there are so many better ways to stay in touch?

What if there is an emergency?  Imagine your home catching fire, an intruder in your home, or your child having a seizure.  What are you going to do?

Telephone and TTY 911 Emergency Calls

When you call 911 through a regular telephone land line, using a telephone or TTY, your call is automatically connected to your 9-1-1 emergency services center – the 9-1-1 center that serves your location.  Your address and phone number are automatically displayed on the computer screen of the 9-1-1 operator, even if you don’t type or say anything.  The 9-1-1 operator can send emergency services to your location immediately, and call you back if your call is disconnected.  

When you call 911 through an Internet telephone line, using a telephone or TTY, your call is automatically connected to your 9-1-1 emergency services center – the 9-1-1 center that serves your location.  You must inform your Internet telephone service provider when you change your location to be sure your call is connected to the 9-1-1 emergency services center that serves your new location.  Your address – the address you gave to your Internet service provider – and phone number are automatically displayed on the computer screen of the 9-1-1 operator, even if you don’t type or say anything.  The 9-1-1 operator can send emergency services to your location immediately, and call you back if your call is disconnected.

When you call 911 using a wireless phone, such as a cell phone, you should be connected to a 9-1-1 emergency services center – but you must tell the 9-1-1 operator where you are.  Wireless phones are mobile – they are not associated with one location or address.  A caller using a wireless phone could be calling from anywhere.  The wireless phone may provide some information about a caller’s general location, but not enough information for emergency personnel to deliver assistance to the caller quickly.  You must tell the 9-1-1 operator the location of the emergency right away.  You should also tell the 9-1-1 operator your wireless phone number so the 9-1-1 operator can call you back if your call is disconnected.

Relay Service 9-1-1 Emergency Calls

When you call 911 through a relay service, your call should be answered quickly, but may not be answered immediately.  You will also be communicating through a relay service communications assistant; not directly with a 9-1-1 operator.  Communicating directly, when possible, is almost always faster.

Using a TTY to Call 911 Through a 711 Relay Service

People who use a TTY on a regular telephone land line and call a 711 relay service should be connected automatically to the appropriate 9-1-1 emergency service center.

People who use a TTY on an Internet telephone service line and call a 711 relay service cannot be connected automatically to the appropriate 9-1-1 emergency service center.  Instead, the caller must provide their location address for the communications assistant to identify and connect the caller to the appropriate 9-1-1 emergency service center.

Using VRS or IP Relay to Call 911

All emergency 911 calls made through a Video Relay Service (VRS) or Internet Protocol Relay (IP Relay) service must be answered by the first available communications assistant. People who use VRS or IP Relay can register and get 10-digit telephone numbers from their VRS or IP Relay provider to make and receive calls, including calls to 9-1-1 emergency service centers.  When you select and register with a VRS or IP Relay, this provider becomes your “default provider.”  The default provider must obtain your address or location.  Your default providers must give you an easy way to update your location information if it changes.  Accurate and up-to-date location information enables VRS and IP Relay providers to connect your 911 call to the appropriate 9-1-1 emergency service call center, and pass your 10-digit number and location information to the 9-1-1 operator.

When you place a 911 call through a VRS or IP Relay provider from a different location, you must provide your location address for the communications assistant to identify and connect you to the appropriate 9-1-1 emergency service center.

When you place a 911 call through a VRS or IP Relay provider that is NOT your default provider, you must provide your location address for the communications assistant to identify and connect you to the appropriate 9-1-1 emergency service center.

Remember, in an emergency, seconds count – please keep your location information updated at all times, even if the change is temporary. 

911 Emergency Calls – During a Power Outage or Internet Outage
 
Have a plan for making emergency 911 calls when there is no electricity or no Internet service.

TTYs require electricity to work.  Most TTYs have a battery that provides limited back-up power.  The battery should give you enough power to make a 911 call.  You can test your TTY battery back-up power by unplugging your TTY and placing a call to a family member or friend who has a TTY or through 711 relay service.

Many telephones require electricity to work.  If you rely on a telephone to call 911, be sure you have a telephone that does not require electricity to work.  Most telephones that require electricity do not have a battery for back-up power.  You can test whether your telephone has battery back-up power by unplugging your telephone and placing a call to a family member or friend.

Internet telephone service lines require electricity to work.
  Some Internet telephone service lines allow you to connect your telephone or TTY to the regular telephone land line connections in your home (called phone “jacks”).  These Internet telephone service lines may have a battery back-up with enough power to make a 911 call.  You can ask your Internet telephone service provider if your Internet telephone service will function when there is a power outage or Internet outage.

During a power outage or an Internet outage, you may be unable to make a VRS or IP Relay call at all.

During a power outage, you may be able to make an emergency 911 call through VRS or IP Relay if your communication device (videophone, laptop, or PDA, such as a Sidekick or Blackberry device) operates on battery power.

Don’t Throw Away Your TTY!

When there is a power outage and no Internet service, having a “old-fashioned” TTY with battery back-up power and a regular telephone land line may be your only way to connect to a 9-1-1 emergency service center.  No other technology connects you directly and as securely during an emergency to the 9-1-1 operator.

NAD President Bobbie Beth Scoggins advises, “The NAD urges all individuals to keep their telephone line and use their TTY first for calling 911.  Protect the health and safety of yourself and the people you love.  Don’t throw away your TTY.”

Some relay service providers may be able to connect you to your 9-1-1 emergency service center – but this should not be your first choice.  A TTY call to your 9-1-1 center is still the best and fastest way to reach your 9-1-1 center.  Going through relay services can cause delays which could mean the difference between life and death.

The fastest and most reliable way to contact emergency services is by dialing 911 through a telephone or TTY hooked up to a regular telephone line; not through a computer, not through the Internet, not through a PDA, not through a videophone, and not through a relay service.

NAD Chief Executive Officer Nancy Bloch notes, “The NAD and others are spearheading efforts to make 9-1-1 systems able to receive and respond to other forms of communication, such as through videophones and text.  Right now, none of these other forms of communication have the same speed, reliability, or efficiency as a 911 call made through a telephone or TTY using a regular telephone land line.”
 

Subscribe to feed

RSS icon

Subscribe to E-News

RSS icon

Privacy Policy           

National Association of the Deaf | 8630 Fenton Street, Suite 820, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3819