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Providence, RI - Rep. Robert Nardolillo III (R-Dist. 28 Coventry) is extremely concerned to learn that Rhode Island’s 911 system potentially excludes the deaf and hard of hearing because it is not capable of receiving text messages.
This comes after an investigation by NBC 10 investigative reporter Katie Davis revealed that Rhode Island’s E-911 system is unable to receive text messages leaving some residents without any way of communicating in an emergency. Rhode Island has invested nearly $70,000 to make the 911-system text message compatible but there are simply not enough people to manage the new program. Officials have requested additional funding to hire more staff but this has not been approved yet meaning that the upgraded hardware and software will remain unused for the foreseeable future.
Nearly 200,000 state residents are deaf or hard of hearing which makes calling 911 difficult or impossible. Text messaging offers these individuals a way to communicate quickly and effectively with telecommunicators during a crisis.
Rep. Nardolillo has always been an advocate for the hearing impaired and was outraged by the report stating, “This is completely unacceptable and highlights exactly why we need to place E-911 funds in a restricted account. The ten million dollars diverted last year could have been used to hire those additional staff members and ensure that our hearing impaired citizens have somewhere to turn during a crisis but instead it was placed into the General Fund.”
Text messaging can also benefit individuals during in an emergency when they cannot safely speak including active shooter events or home invasions. This could offer first responders critical information about the location of an incident and help them better prepare for the situation.
“This technology is used across the country to save lives and yet Rhode Island continues to lag behind because we refuse to give our 911 system the proper funding it deserves. Our citizens should always have access to emergency services and I will do everything in my power to ensure that everyone has a voice,” said Rep. Nardolillo
Ian O'Connor, House Minority Office
State House Room 106
Providence, RI 02903