When Orem dispatcher Barry Nielsen answered an emergency 911 call last week, there was no one on the other end of the line.
"It's not unusual to get prank phone calls, but we always call back just in case," Nielsen said. There was no answer.Because the new enhanced 911 system shows the origin of the emergency phone calls, it is the city's policy to send an officer whenever the dispatchers can't get in touch with the party that called.
When the officer arrived at the address, there was a 70-year-old deaf woman having a heart attack.
"I think everything turned out all right," Nielsen said. "I wanted to follow up on this one."
But the situation might have been a little less tense if the woman had used a teletype machine that permits deaf residents to type in their emergency problems.
Michol Goodrich, communications supervisor in Orem City Department of Public Safety, said the teletype machine, called TDD for telecommunications device for the deaf, is a little typewriter hooked up to the telephone.
"The dispatchers are trained to recognize the sound of the teletype machine," Goodrich said. So, when a deaf person calls in, the dispatchers can immediately hook up to the receiving machine to get the message.
"We receive the message and we can also send messages back to the caller," she said.
"We got the newest edition of these machines in April," Goodrich said. The city has had a machine for the deaf for about six years.
The newer ones are more compact and can run on a battery.
"We only get about two or three calls a year on the teletype machine that are real emergencies," Goodrich said. And in those situations, she is not sure what else the people could have done if they hadn't have had the machine.
"We have been able to respond to a couple of fires, too," she said.
According to Goodrich, the teletype machines work from all over the county.
A representative from the Utah Association for the Deaf said the machines are given to the hearing-impaired according to need and those so desiring may apply to the Public Service Commission.