Home Business & Economy Digital Tech Shift to Next-Gen 911 driven by use of mobile phones

Shift to Next-Gen 911 driven by use of mobile phones

phone, 911

Wednesday March 1, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

Next Generation 911 is coming to communities across BC.

The Province is working with local governments to build stronger communities through upgrades to critical emergency communications services that will help keep people safe and improve emergency responses. Local governments are responsible for their own 911 services.

Staff shortages and a change in the communications technology that people use during emergencies has driven the change. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has requested these changes across the country, and has mandated the implementation of Next Generation 911 and decommissioning of current 911 networks by March 4, 2025. [CRTC’s statement on Next Generation 911 design efficiencies]

Next Generation 911 is a countrywide emergency communications network that enables transmission of all types of data; for example, real time texting and caller location features through GIS mapping.

Mike Farnworth, Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General [file: 2022]

In BC, E-Comm answers 911 calls for 25 of 27 regional districts in B.C. (presently not serving Nelson and Prince Rupert).

Financial investment & staffing impact:

The Province’s $150-million investment will fund upgrades to B.C.’s 911 emergency communications system, which is aging and increasingly incompatible with evolving technologies.

E-Comm, which handles 99% of B.C.’s 911 call volume, is leading Next Generation 911’s implementation in most B.C. municipalities.

Pending approval by the legislative assembly, the Province’s $150-million investment will help offset local governments’ costs for transitioning to Next Generation 911 and be divided into two parts:

  • $90 million will be provided to E-Comm for technological upgrades; and
  • $60 million will be provided to the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) to defray costs, such as staffing, training and quality assurance.

Once the new system is in place it may require fewer personnel to directly take calls at the central E-Comm office. That’s actually good news, given the staff shortages experienced there in recent years.

Technology for modern times:

The upgrades to Next Generation 911 will allow people the choice to contact 911 through new options, such as real-time text, and to and caller location features.

cell phone, emergency
Sending photos of an emergency situation to first responders using a cell phone can assist in emergency decision-making about what equipment or personnel to bring to the scene.

“When people experience a life-threatening emergency, they need to know they can count on an accessible and reliable 911 system,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Next Generation 911’s advanced technology will help ensure safer and coordinated emergency responses. Our $150-million investment will support local governments through a transition to Next Generation 911 to help ensure the safety of people throughout B.C.”

Next Generation 911 will improve public safety and confidence in the 911 network. Its features will make the 911 system more accessible for people who choose to communicate confidentially with emergency services, and for people with disabilities who will be able to use different text media to interact with operators. The technology’s capacity to provide real-time accounts of domestic violence and other emergencies and unfolding events will help dispatchers and improve emergency responses.

How it currently works:

The old way (still in effect in BC, ahead of these upcoming changes): When a person dials 9-1-1 in Canada today, the call travels from the network from which it was placed (the originating network)Footnote2 to the local specialized 9-1-1 network. The 9-1-1 network then routes the call and the associated caller information (if available) to the PSAP that serves the area from which the 9-1-1 call was placed. The PSAP then dispatches emergency responders, such as fire, police, and ambulance, as required.

Remote communities:

“Keeping people safe is a core value of government,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services. “Working together with municipalities, regional districts and First Nations to improve emergency communications is vital to enhancing public safety for people living in and travelling through the most remote parts of the province.

Lisa Beare
Lisa Beare, BC Minister of Citizens’ Services

“We are working to improve connectivity in B.C. because everyone deserves to have access to the services they need, especially emergency services, no matter where they live,” said Beare.

The implementation of Next Generation 911 and the Connecting Communities BC program support government commitments to provide high-speed internet services and enhance 911 services in rural, remote and Indigenous communities.

Emergency sector comments:

At the announcement held today at the Ecomm 911 Centre in Saanich, remarks were also delivered by Craig Hodge, Coquitlam councillor and chair, UBCM Community Safety Committee and Oliver Grüter-Andrew, president and CEO, E-Comm 911.

“The adoption of Next Generation 911 provides an essential technological upgrade to B.C.’s 911 system. British Columbians will now be able to request an emergency response through texting, location-sharing and multimedia communications,” said Craig Hodge, Coquitlam councillor and chair, UBCM Community Safety Committee. “The provincial funding will minimize the financial impact on local government budgets resulting from the Next Generation 911 transition and will be welcomed by UBCM’s members.”

“The federally mandated improvements to 911 present a significant opportunity to enhance the safety of British Columbians in everyday life,” said Oliver Grüter-Andrew, president and CEO, E-Comm 911. “The cost of the necessary work is high and would be difficult for local governments to fund. As the first answer point for over two million calls to 911 in B.C. annually, E-Comm is pleased that the provincial government has committed to this substantial investment to help save lives and protect property in British Columbia.”

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Saanich location:

“Every day I see the financial pressures mounting on communities and families as the cost of living rises,” said Dean Murdock, mayor of Saanich today in a news release. He also attended the announcement at the Ecomm 911 Centre which is located in his municipality.

“This provincial support for the transition to Next Generation 911 will help connect people with a dependable, accessible 911 system when they need it without taking a financial toll on municipalities. Together, we are working with E-Comm to build a technologically enhanced emergency communications system,” said Murdock.

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===== Links:

To read the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act’s report, visit: https://www.leg.bc.ca/content/CommitteeDocuments/42nd-parliament/3rd-session/rpa/SC-RPA-Report_42-3_2022-04-28.pdf

For more information about Next Generation 911, visit: https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/phone/911/gen.htm

For more information about E-Comm and the services they province, visit: https://www.ecomm911.ca/about-e-comm/