Leaders react to 911 expansion plans
Carbonear mayor calls idea ‘absolutely great’ and ‘long overdue’
Municipal leaders and emergency responders in the Trinity-Conception-Placentia region are weighing in on plans to expand 911 emergency calling services provincewide.
The chief of the Bay Roberts Volunteer Fire Department, Adam Norman, described last week’s announcement as a “good step forward.”
“We’re kind of lagging behind the rest of Canada,” Norman told The Compass during a telephone interview on Tuesday, May 20.
Placentia Mayor Wayne Power said in his community some visitors and locals are not aware of the different emergency numbers to call. There are three different numbers for an ambulance, the fire department, and the police, he explained.
This plan will simplify the process by which a resident can summon emergency assistance.
“It’ll be easier for residents with one number,” said Power, who operates an ambulance service.
Carbonear Mayor George Butt said it is “absolutely great.”
“We haven’t got all the details on it yet, but it’s long overdue,” Butt said.
Chief Norman said the service is much-needed, but acknowledged it’s going to come with some challenges.
“It’s going to take some work from different departments and different municipalities to decide whom to call, for what areas, to distinguish for the operators,” said Norman.
For example, there are six fire departments with responsibility for different sections of the Veterans Memorial Highway.
“We’re not exactly sure how it’s going to work,” added Mayor Butt.
Concerns have also been raised about the fact that not all homes are clearly numbered, making it challenging for responders to find the correct civic address in a timely fashion.
“Trying to get everybody to put their numbers on their house, that’s been a challenge for years,” said Butt.
911 team and fee
Officials with the provincial government said they are committed to provincewide 911 services by December 2014, and a 911 project implementation team is now in place.
According to a news release, a governing body will be established known as the “NL Bureau Inc.”
The release explained that the bureau will function as a non-profit corporation. It will be responsible for establishing and operating 911 telephone services. A board of directors will be appointed to oversee the operation.
To expand the service, subscribers of wireless and landline telephone services will be charged a monthly levy, which will be under $1 a month.
It will also help develop and implement Next Generation 911 and other technological advancements.
Once the services are expanded, 911 will be available to all residents via landline. The service is already available to those using cellphones.
“And it’s not going to cost an awful lot of money to have it,” said Butt.
The Emergency 911 Act will allow for the creation of NL 911 Bureau, allow for the establishment of a board of directors by the end of 2014, require municipalities and emergency service providers ( fire, ambulance, police) to identify their emergency response zones, define the boundaries for the call-taking centres, also known as public safety answering points.
The identification of these zones will enable the 911 Implementation Team to accurately define the geographical boundaries of the emergency service responders.
To date, 40 per cent of the province’s population is covered by basic 911 services on landline telephones. These areas are the Northeast Avalon, Corner Brook/Bay of Islands, Labrador City and Wabush.
The remainder of the population are required to dial a seven-digit local number in the event of an emergency.
Local leaders say it’s a progressive move from the provincial government.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Power.
— Laura Griffin is completing a field placement at The Compass as part of a two-year program in journalism at the Stephenville campus of the College of the North Atlantic. She can be reached at email@example.com.