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911 goes digital to allow texts, photos and video

·2 min read

Grey County is renewing its contract with Owen Sound Police Services, which is its 911 public safety answering point, dispatching emergency responders.

The new contract includes a small share of the costs for equipping the OSPS service for coming changes to emergency call services.

Originally, 911 was set up in the late 90s using analog wireline technology. The switch to digital is expected to create a faster system that’s better equipped to handle high volumes due to natural disaster as well as to include location tracking.

While landline calls coming into dispatch show a specific location, at present cell phones are routed to towers that may be some distance away or in another jurisdiction.

When Next Generation 911 arrives, in addition to phone calls coming into a communications centre, there can be an electronic request from a mobile phone. Over time, real-time text, data, pictures will all be able to be received.

In 2020, Grey County's annual payment for 911 services was $52,345 based on 56 cents per person per year based on 2016 census data. The new census information, to be released in late 2022, is expected to be over 100,000, compared with the 2016 figure of about 94,000.

The cost for person in the new contract starts at 67 cents per person in 2021, rising each year by two cents to be 75 cents in 2025.

Owen Sound has provided the County 911 dispatch since the program began and has provided excellent service, the staff report said.

Implementing what’s called Next Generation 911 or NG911 has to be done in a co-ordinated way.

In Canada, the 911 system falls under the CRTC which regulates telecommunications. It has set a March 1, 2022 deadline for providers to update all phone and cell service to digital to allow text messaging.

Other services, such as photos and videos will follow. Some of the targets to have aspects of the services in place were extended due to COVID-19, the staff report said.

Organizations associated with emergency services communication have been working on the path to IP-based services since about 2000.

M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald

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