For a group of North Carolinians, dialing 911 and communicating with a dispatcher is not as easy as it seems during an emergency situation.
According to the state’s Division of Services for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (DSDHH), more than 1 million adults in North Carolina have a hearing problem. A few of those individuals reside here in Sampson.
Roberta Parker, telecommunications manager for the Sampson County Emergency Management, said they’re ready to help those individuals in times of emergency.
To assist those in the county with hearing problems, the agency’s 911 center has a system for individuals using Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD), or Teletypewriters(TTY)systems.
“It’s real similar to texting,” Parker said.
Those systems are available for deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired individuals.
The system is built into their phone system and when the center receives a call from a TDD or a TTY resident, the dispatcher hears a tone and it switches over to a screen where they can type to the individual seeking help.
Parker said it’s been a while since the center has received a call.
“We used to have two regulars, but they both passed away,” Parker acknowledged.
The center, she said, may only receive three calls a year, but for those who need it, knowing the service is available is a great comfort.
Some residents previously called the Relay North Carolina system to contact Sampson County’s emergency personnel.
“We would talk through this third party, but we have not had a call like that in years,” she said.
To use the relay service, anyone can dial 7-1-1 and the service is available 24 hours a day.
The local emergency management is certified by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. “They come in and do test calls to make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to by making calls,” Parker said.
Parker said the certification also includes classes about the system and the language.
“If they type GA, that means they’re done and it’s time for us to type what we want to type,” she said.
Currently, no upgrades are planned for the system, which has been in place for at least 25 years.
“I’ve had several deaf calls from people needing an ambulance or for us to make a phone call for them,” Parker said.
According to the DSDHH, equipment is available through their Equipment Distribution Services and other resources. After a system is selected, staff members can help with the application process, provide documents to order desired equipment and assist with installation.