New legislation will ensure Albertans in an emergency have improved access to 911 services.
The proposed Emergency 911 Act, introduced in the Alberta legislature, addresses a number of challenges facing 911 call centres. It will:
• Level the playing field by having wireless subscribers contribute to the cost of the service, as those with landlines currently do.
• Give government, in collaboration with stakeholders, the ability to create consistent standards, processes and procedures for 911 call taking;
• Provide more legal protection for 911 call centre staff; and,
• Fine people who make frivolous 911 calls.
“We all know 911 is an essential service, but until you need it, it’s easy to take for granted,” said Greg Weadick, associate minister of municipal affairs. “This new legislation will go a long way to making sure Alberta’s 911 call centres have the support they need to continue providing Albertans with effective service today, and tomorrow.”
Wireless users will contribute 44 cents a month, the same amount that landline users have paid for years.
“911 call centres used to get a portion of their funding from a fee on landlines,” Weadick explained. “But this is declining as more and more Albertans are opting for cellphones instead of landlines, and many of the current challenges facing call centres directly relate to the millions of cellphone subscriptions in this province. So it only makes sense that cellphone users contribute to the cost of 911 the same as landline users.”
911 operators report that cellphones can account for up to 70 per cent of all calls they receive. There are an estimated 2.7 million cellphone subscriptions in Alberta.
“The 911 centres throughout the province will benefit from this legislation. The monetary support from wireless 911 levy will offset the increasing costs associated with providing 911 service, particularly as 911 call volumes have increased dramatically with increase in cellphone users,” said Chris Kearns, manager of the Public Safety Communications Centre with the City of Lethbridge, and chair of the Alberta E911 Advisory Association. “The implementation of standards, processes and procedures, will provide the ability to deliver consistent service levels each and every time someone calls 911.”
The Emergency 911 Act will also support Alberta’s 911 call centres as they make plans to integrate next generation technology such as GPS and texting into their operations.