Ensuring Effective Communication: Call Handling Guidelines for Relay Services Interacting with Emergency Services

In emergency situations, clear and efficient communication is vital. For Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing people, Relay Services play a crucial role in bridging the gap between them and Emergency Services. But how should Relay Services handle these critical calls to ensure the best possible outcome? Let us have a look at call handling guidelines that Relay Services should follow when interacting with Emergency Services.

Prioritizing Emergency Calls

Primarily, Relay Services must prioritize emergency calls above all other calls. When an emergency is initiated, it should be immediately flagged and moved to the front of the queue. The prioritization ensures that emergency calls receive the rapid attention they require, minimizing delays and potentially saving lives.

Initial Call Protocols

When an emergency call is received, the relay agent should promptly ask the caller for their name and location, unless this information is already known. If the caller indicates they are not at their usual location, the relay agent must:

  1. Confirm the caller’s current location.
  2. Quickly connect to the Emergency Service.

This step is crucial to ensure that emergency responders can reach the caller as quickly as possible.

Information Collection and Sharing

Relay agents should only collect information that is necessary for providing emergency assistance. Once connected with the Emergency Service, the relay agent should share the following details:

  • The caller’s address.
  • The name of the Relay Service.
  • The relay agent’s ID or name.

This information is vital for Emergency Services to authenticate the call and understand the context of the communication.

Standard Messaging and Identification

At the start of the call, relay agents should use a standard introductory message such as: “This is a Video Relay emergency call; I am interpreter #ID.” This helps the emergency call taker immediately recognize the nature of the call and the presence of a relay agent.

Handling Non-Responsive Callers

If a Deaf caller stops responding during the call, the relay agent should provide the call taker with any other important details they have noticed. This might include observations about the caller’s condition or environment that could aid emergency responders.

Key Information Relay

Relay agents should be prepared to provide essential information, including:

  • The location of the emergency.
  • The nature of the emergency.
  • The callback number.

Having this information ready ensures that the emergency service can respond effectively, even if the caller is unable to provide all details themselves.


While comprehensive, standardized call handling guidelines for Relay Services interacting with Emergency Services are not yet established, following these best practices can significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of emergency responses. By prioritizing emergency calls, ensuring clear communication, and providing critical information, Relay Services can play a vital role in safeguarding the lives and well-being of Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing individuals during emergencies.

For more insights about accessible Emergency Services click here.