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New 911 Text Service in D.C. Rerouting Emergencies to Phone Calls Instead

WASHINGTON D.C. A D.C. man who is deaf said he texted 911 to report a life-threatening emergency and was shocked when the response he got was to make a “voice call” instead.

Graham Forsey and his interpreter said the problem happened on July 24 when he texted 911 to report a man who was having a mental crisis in the middle of H Street. The response he got was to make a voice call instead. 

“Please make a voice call to 911. There is no text service to 911 available at this time.”

Forsey said the reply was frustrating. 

“I texted you for a reason,” he said. “I can’t call.” 

In case of an emergency, the 911 texting service is the only way for Forsey to get help, as he does not have access to equipment called a teletypewriter (TTY) that some deaf people use to make phone calls. 

Forsey reached out to the D.C. Office of Unified Communications (OUC). In an email, Director Heather McGaffin told him there was a high number of 911 calls at the same time he was trying to get in touch with 911.

D.C. ANC members have expressed what they called “grave concerns” about how the District handles 911 calls and its OUC.

More on this story here.

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