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Coming ‘next generation 911’ fire call dispatch to be outsourced

Coming technology designed to enhance calls to 911 will be outsourced by Prince Edward County’s fire department due to high costs to implement and maintain the new service.

Council Tuesday night will be asked to award the city of St. Catharines a tender in the amount of $405,797.50 for fire dispatch services. UPDATE: Approved.

All municipalities are faced with meeting demand to meet “next generation 911” or NG911 services over the coming years which will allow people to provide details about emergency situations by text, photo or video, or make medical information available to first responders. As the technology advances, vehicle crash data and specific scene details may automatically be transmitted to the 911 call centre.

As a first step the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission) has directed all phone and cell service companies to update their networks from analog to digital so they are ready to provide NG9-1-1 voice and text messaging services. By March 2025, municipal governments also need to ensure their emergency call centres are ready for the new service.

“NG-911 costs to implement the necessary technologies based on the department’s call volumes would not be practical, nor economical, stated Deputy Fire Chief Tim Kraemer, in his report to council.

PEC Fire and Rescue currently averages about 600 calls for service annually. Kraemer noted significant investment would include dispatch hardware and software, increased full-time dedicated dispatch staffing with required certification and dedicated IT support for all 911 technologies.

The request for proposal was initiated to seek qualified dispatch providers that do have the necessary technology and certifications to handle future 911 services for smaller municipalities.

Four proposals were received and the contract cost for St. Catharines, also the lowest bid, and the contract amount when broken down annually is within the approved budget line of $84,900. The other bids were from Tillsonburg Fire and Rescue, Owen Sound Police and Northern Communication Services Inc.

If approved by council, implementation could begin as soon as June.

Staff have also co-ordinated with the Hastings and Prince Edward County Mutual Aid Fire Chiefs to co-ordinate benefits of a mutual aid system benefitting from services of a common vendor. Some Hastings County fire departments have selected the same vendor for their fire dispatch services.

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. B Wilder says:

    In Ontario 911 uses the enhanced system. You call into a call centre, but the phone system provides your location. The 911 operator would then notify the appropriate service to respond to your emergency. The new system will provide more capability but will operate in the same way. You might ask where the current 911 operators are located as I suspect they are not in the County.

  2. ADJ says:

    Susan I hope you’re right. Worst scenario would be a call from a senior who is not familiar with this technology. I’m not clear if this is a call to a call center and they need details as to where, why and whatever. Until I hear more details I would think a 3-6 month trial run would be helpful. Too late now I guess as the cheque is already in the mail.

  3. Susan says:

    Shouldn’t be an issue in today’s technological advances.

  4. ADJ says:

    I can just imagine the glitches that are going to happen as we call our 911 for emergency situations. I had a similar experience with a toll free 888 # to book my Covid vaccine. In that case they did not know of Picton and could not find my civic address. Hoping this is not a repeat.

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