Deaf man's 911 text saves house from fire

Text went to operators at Oakland County Dispatch Center

By Jermont Terry - Reporter

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. - It seems as if people text more than they talk in modern days. That's why some communities have started allowing people to text 911.

Residents in Oakland County are allowed to text 911 and a message will appear on a screen for a dispatcher to read. A deaf Rochester Hills man said the texting system saved his house from burning down.

The fire started when the man's mother, Mary Powers, tried to clean the oven.

"I smelled something and I came out here and the oven was on fire," Powers said.

She ran back in the room to tell her son, Scott Powers, to get help.

"I told him to call 911," she said.

Her son pulled out his cellphone but didn't dial.

"That means text because he's deaf," Powers said.

"I'm deaf, I can't talk on the phone, need fire department immediately," the text read.

The text went right through to operators at the Oakland County Dispatch Center.

Oakland County has been equipped with the 911 text messaging for just over a year. They average around 12 emergency text messages a day. Scott Powers owns his house and is thankful the county can accommodate his needs.

"I like to be independent without depending on other people," he said. "I used to think, 'What would I do if my house was on fire?' The first thing I used to think was, 'Run to my neighbor.'"

He's fortunate to live in an area where he can get emergency help. He hopes other communities will get on board with the technology.

"When I'm on the road visiting a friend, sometimes it doesn't work," Powers said. "I'll text 911. I'd get a response back saying it's not available."

This was the first time the Rochester Hills Fire Department benefited from the 911 text. But they realize this will likely not be the last time.

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