Emergency Services Join Forces to Launch Deaf Initiatives

Wednesday, 30 April, 2008

Cleveland Police, Cleveland Fire Brigade and the North East Ambulance Service have joined forces to launch a number of initiatives for people who are Deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired.

Following consultation, the initiatives have been developed over the last 16 months to break down barriers and improve the service delivered to those communities.

A text service for contacting the Police and Fire Brigade has been implemented together with a multi-agency leaflet with emergency signs for Deaf people being delivered to all staff, and volunteers within the emergency services can now assist with signing.

In order to use the text service to contact Cleveland Police, people can text the word Police to 87202, they need to include the name of the place or street where they are and explain why they need help.

The message will then be confirmed by text and appropriate action will be taken. Whilst this service is not designed as an emergency response it can be used for reporting incidents such as anti-social behaviour, crime or nuisance neighbours.

To contact Cleveland Fire Brigade in an emergency, text the word Fire to the number 07718 999999. Again they need to include the name of the place or street where they are and explain why they need help. A number for the North East Ambulance Service that will cover the whole North East region will be available shortly.

Chief Constable of Cleveland Police Sean Price said: "I am confident that these services will make a positive difference to those who are hearing or speech impaired and who need to contact the police.

"Some of our members of staff also have basic sign language skills and act as volunteers to assist with initial communication when attending police stations.

"The initiatives between all three emergency services are truly unique and ground breaking because we have all been able to work in partnership with the Deaf community. The initiative also fits perfectly with our policy of Putting People First."

John Doyle, Chief Fire Officer of Cleveland Fire Brigade said: "We are aiming to provide a service for everyone in our community and this is a great new way to contact emergency services. The Brigade has also employed a Deaf Persons' Advocate, Laura McQuillan, who is dedicated to helping those with a hearing impairment.

Laura, who uses British Sign Language, assists in Home Fire Safety Visits and helps check that residents have the best equipment to suit their needs. She also delivers fire safety talks.

"The Brigade has also invested in Texbox equipment which allows those with a mini-com to book a free Home Fire Safety Visit or contact the Brigade with any other query by phoning 01429 874125. The caller is then connected to a control operator and communicates through text which is immediately seen by the receiver."

Simon Featherstone, Chief Executive for the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) said: "We are committed to continually improving the service we provide.

"We are members of the 'Emergency Services Deaf Forum' and continue to work in partnership to build upon and improve community relations between the Emergency Services and the Deaf people it serves.

"We have been working on providing a text service and this will be accessible to the whole of the North East when it is launched this summer.

"I see this particular initiative as extremely beneficial as it enables Deaf people in the local communities we serve better access to their emergency services."

Gill Marshall, Co-ordinator for Middlesbrough Deaf Centre said: "I very much welcome the initiatives and they will tremendously improve communications with the emergency services."

The new initiatives will be launched at an open evening at Cleveland Police Headquarters, Ladgate Lane, Middlesbrough at 6pm on Monday 21st April 2008. Attendance at the evening can be booked via the local Deaf clubs or by contacting Cleveland Police Diversity Unit at


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