Basic 911 service to expand province-wide by 2014

Newfoundland and Labrador will expand 911 service to cover the entire province by the end of 2014, with plans for a more advanced system to come.

Government plans move to enhanced system in the future; little cost to short-term measures

The Newfoundland and Labrador government says it will expand basic 911 service to cover the entire province by the end of 2014, with plans for a more advanced system in the future.

"Our government will now make the investments necessary to move forward," said Municipal Affairs Minister Kevin O’Brien, who is responsible for emergency services.

"We understand and appreciate the benefits that a 911 system provides and will make this vital service available to residents of the province."

According to the government, about 40 per cent of the province is currently covered by basic 911 service.

There will be little cost to extend that level of service.

The province plans to move towards a more advanced 911 system in the future.

Enhanced 911 service will provide operators with the ability to see on their computer screen the telephone number and address from where a call originates.

The province then plans to move to a next-generation service, which is even more advanced. It allows texting and images, video and other data to be transferred.

That move to a more complex system, whenever it happens, will involve an initial capital investment of $1.5 million, plus $2.3 million annually once the system is up and running.

The government hired an outside firm, POMAX Consulting Incorporated, to examine 911 services in Newfoundland and Labrador.

O’Brien said the province will "move as quickly as possible" to begin rolling out basic 911 services in areas that are currently not covered.

Right now, basic 911 is available in only three regions — the northeast Avalon, the Corner Brook/Bay of Islands area, and Labrador West.

Basic 911 can also be accessed from cell phones anywhere there is a signal.

Extending that coverage to the entire province will not require much cash.

"We have found that extending basic 911 service to the balance of the province, using number translation technology, is a practical interim measure that can be introduced at low cost," the consultant noted in its report.

There would, however, need to be a plan put in place to handle technical issues, the consultant noted.

But according to POMAX,  the early and even middle stages of an expanded 911 initiative would result in "minimal or no impact on current staffing and technology" at centres that handle the calls. 

The government says it will report on its progress in six months time.