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March 1, 2003

Text service for deaf to expand

From: icBirmingham, UK - 01 Mar 2003

By Staff Reporter, Birmingham Post

A pioneering text messaging service which allows deaf and hard-of-hearing people to contact the police in an emergency is to be extended again to include people who regularly travel to the West Midlands.

When the service was originally set up in July last year it was only available to people who lived within the West Midlands. In September it was extended to people who work within the force area.

Now the successful scheme is being extended to people who regularly drive or commute through the region.

Inspector Bob Box, from the Force Communications Centre, said: "As a result of the interest in the scheme from people living in and outside the West Midlands, we have decided to extend it to motorists and commuters who regularly travel in or through the region.

"There are about 70,000 deaf people in this country and many more are hard-of-hearing or speech impaired.

"This service gives those people the opportunity to contact the police in an emergency by texting us with information.

"It's a really simple idea, but it's wonderful. We are very pleased with it so far and delighted we can now extend it to more people."

The system works by registered mobile phone owners being given a special number to text with information or requests for help.

The information is gathered by a computer at the Force Control Room which converts messages into an email.

Text messages which relate to the fire or ambulance service are immediately routed to the appropriate organisation by telephone.

Since the scheme was launched, almost 265 people have registered to use it and ten emergency messages have been received by the Force Communications Centre using SMS messaging.

People interested in using the scheme have to register in advance and only calls from registered users are accepted.

The innovative scheme has proved so successful with deaf organisations throughout the country the force has been inundated with calls from other force areas, keen to explore the system.

**For further information about the text messaging service, see the West Midlands Police website on

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