Real-time text for emergency services will be introduced in 2025

Publication date 18.9.2023 9.10 | Published in English on 15.4.2024 at 15.42
News item

Emergency calls using real-time text (RTT) will be made available by the end of 2025. The new option for emergency calls will especially help people with hearing or speech impairments. The Emergency Response Centre Administration has already taken the first steps in the development of RTT.

Real-time text (RTT) in emergency calls will offer continuous, real-time, text-based, character-by-character communication between emergency response centres and callers.
The option of using RTT to place an emergency call is intended especially for people with hearing or speech impairments who have previously relied on emergency text messages. The service is available to everyone and does not require callers to register in advance. However, we recommend that people who are able to place emergency calls verbally continue to report using normal phone calls.

− Reporting an emergency by calling and speaking verbally is always faster than using text, explains Senior Software Engineer Sami Suomalainen.

The service is free of charge. To report an emergency using RTT, callers will need to use a smartphone. When calling the emergency number 112, the phone’s operating system will automatically give the caller the option of using RTT instead of voice.

When using RTT, each character is sent to the operator as you type. The operator can see everything you type or delete in real time and vice versa, as well as any typing errors and corrections.

− The purpose of this is to give the caller a sense that things are happening in real time when they interact with the emergency response centre – just like talking verbally over the phone, Suomalainen says.

Changes based on the Accessibility Act

The introduction of the new option for emergency calls is based on the European Accessibility Act and the associated Finnish legal requirements. The purpose of the Accessibility Act is to promote the ability of everyone, especially people with disabilities, to live independently as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

− RTT offers users who have difficulties hearing or speaking a new important and equal emergency call channel, Suomalainen says.

It will become mandatory in all EU countries to provide an RTT option by the end of 2025. Currently, RTT is only available in two EU countries. Experiences using RTT have been positive, and the new emergency call option has not significantly increased the number of emergency calls placed.

Planning and design are underway

Planning and design work for the new emergency call channel are well underway at the Emergency Response Centre Agency. Technical design work and ensuring sufficient funding are scheduled for completion by the end of the year. The aim is to be ready to commence technical implementation before the end of 2024. The service will be available by the end of 2025.

Development of RTT will take the needs of emergency response centre operators and emergency callers into account as thoroughly as possible. The goal is to ensure that the technology serves users, not the other way around.

− We are still early in the development process. There are still a number of unanswered questions, and we don’t have all the answers yet. However, I believe there is plenty of potential, says Suomalainen.