Today’s emergency services are almost voice-only capable and only a marginal share of data and multimedia is used by Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs).
Improving access to emergency services for deaf and hard of hearing citizens induces enabling PSAPs and people in need to handle their modes of communications such as text. Such a service, where deaf people can contact the fire brigade, police or ambulance, is available via a special Austrian emergency text service by sending a fax or SMS message. We don’t have detailed figures describing how often this service is used in Austria and how successful it is, but Harry Spitzer, a former technical assistant at WITAF, repeatedly reported issues with the service provided. Even worse, we heard about an Austrian MP who burnt down her kitchen because of not being able to contact the fire brigades in time.
The same Mr. Spitzer heard about NG112 concepts at RTR’s Platform Notrufe and asked if things like text to emergency services and location based emergency call routing is already available – the simple answer was: unfortunately not, but technical standards are available so it is just a matter of doing it. This happened some time ago and since then we started a private initiative – DEC112 – with the aim of providing a better, more modern way to support deaf and hard of hearing people when making emergency calls. At a first glance, it sounds like an easy job but, considering the challenging parts with Austrian emergency services like a bunch of different emergency numbers and the fact that emergency services are the responsibility of federal states, it gets though. In technical terms, it means different services (at least for fire, ambulance and police) and service regions based on Austrian federal states combined with functional elements of an NG112 architecture.
DEC112 aims to provide an easy, reliable and secure way for deaf or hearing-impaired people to text for help in an emergency through a simple and intuitive interface. Using state of the art technologies and standards goals and features like a single mobile application for all major platforms or location based call routing utilizing NG112 core services. After some weeks of consolidation and project planning we’ve recently met for our first hackathon in the beautiful library of the Impact Hub Vienna.