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Sign of the times: unique campaign promotes safety message to the deaf community

Youtube Video There’s only one word spoken in the Fire Service’s new TVC. But that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of communication.

The campaign, which was developed in-house and filmed by Double Cove (M&C Saatchi is the Fire Service’s usual agency), uses a firefighter to show those who are deaf or hearing impaired how they can contact police, fire or ambulance emergency services by texting 111. And the Fire Service claims it is the country’s first television advertisement that uses New Zealand Sign Language and is aimed directly at this community (Air New Zealand’s sign language-based response to a Listener editorial earlier this year was more about petty squabbling with the media than bringing attention to the deaf community).

The Text 111 initiative, which was launched in October, is essential for New Zealanders who can’t use a phone in an emergency due to hearing loss. And it helps empower members of the deaf community so they can access emergency help when needed and feel safer that their requests can be responded to immediately.

The service was developed in collaboration with New Zealand’s emergency services and Deaf Aotearoa. To date, more than 400 people have registered and already several emergency texts have been responded to.

“The Text 111 initiative has been a major event for the Deaf community and incredibly empowering,” says Deaf Aotearoa chief executive Rachel Noble. “We are thrilled that the Fire Service has developed this commercial in our language, as it will help educate even more Deaf and hearing impaired people about the service.Personal safety has understandably always been a very high priority for deaf people. We want to have the freedom to live our lives in the same manner as any hearing person, this includes our ability to contact emergency services as required.”

All is required is for deaf and hearing impaired people to register their mobile phone number at www.deaf.org.nz, then complete their registration at www.police.govt.nz/deaf-txt. But the Fire Service are at pains to point out that the text service is not a substitute for calling the emergency services on 111, which is still the quickest way to get help.

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