Deaf News: 999 text service surpasses 200,000 registrations

Posted on January 27, 2017

More than 214,000 people with a hearing loss or difficulty with speech have signed up to the 999 text service over the past six years, it has been revealed.

Information obtained from BT and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) by The Limping Chicken found that 180,060 people registered to Emergency SMS from 2011 to April 2016, with a further 35,000 joining the service up to December last year.

In response to the news, Paul Breckell, chief executive at Action on Hearing Loss said: “We are very pleased to see that this valuable service is being utilised by those with deafness and hearing loss.

“Ensuring that the emergency services are fully accessible to the 11 million people with hearing loss and 900,000 people with severe or profound deafness in the UK is incredibly important and we would urge anyone who isn’t signed up to the scheme to do so now.”

People interested in signing up to Emergency SMS can text ‘register’ to 999, where they will receive a text with further instructions on how to join. In an emergency, individuals can then send a text to the number containing information about what and where the problem is taking place and which service they require. The emergency services will then respond via. text within three minutes.

The service has been running since September 2009, before being made permanent following a successful trial two years later. Emergency SMS is funded by mobile networks and was developed by organisations such as Action on Hearing Loss, BT, Cable & Wireless, Ofcom, DCMS and the emergency services.

Alongside Emergency SMS, all UK mobile providers must offer voice and text relay services for 999 calls under Ofcom rules.

A spokesperson for the regulator said: “The emergency SMS scheme has proved very successful and is highly valued by hearing and speech-impaired people.

“Getting help right away can make a big difference in emergency situations. The service means that means that deaf and speech-impaired people can contact 999 quickly, easily and with confidence.”

More information about Emergency SMS can be found on their website, and a leaflet about the service can be downloaded from Action on Hearing Loss here.

By Liam O’Dell. Liam is partially deaf and uses hearing aids in both ears. Alongside studying for a degree in journalism, Liam enjoys presenting his own radio show, listening to music and reading one of the many books on his ’to-be-read’ list. You can find out more about Liam over at his blog:, or follow him on Twitter: @lifeofathinker.

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