Min­is­ter re­acts to provincewide 911 story

The Compass - - OPINION -

Re­gard­ing the Dec. 2, 2014, Com­pass ar­ti­cle, “Lo­cal lead­ers con­cerned about 911 ‘mid­dle­man’,” I take this op­por­tu­nity to clar­ify some points for your read­ers about how provincewide 911 will work and gov­ern­ment’s plans for fu­ture en­hance­ments.

Sig­nif­i­cant progress has been made on the de­vel­op­ment of a provincewide Ba­sic 911 sys­tem. At present, 911 is only ac­ces­si­ble via land­line to about 40 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, and via cell­phone wher­ever a sig­nal can be ac­cessed. The new ser­vice will be avail­able via land­line through­out New­found­land and Labrador. Peo­ple through­out the prov­ince will be able to reach a live voice to con­nect to emer­gency as­sis­tance through a univer­sal, easy to re­mem­ber num­ber.

The valid ob­ser­va­tion that min­utes can make a dif­fer­ence in an emer­gency (a state­ment at­trib­uted to Har­bour Grace Deputy Mayor Sonia Wil­liams in the afore­men­tioned ar­ti­cle) has in­spired this project since its gen­e­sis. The provincewide 911 ser­vice will follow Na­tional Fire Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion stan­dards, which re­quire that 911 calls be an­swered within 15 seconds 95 per cent of the time, and trans­ferred to emer­gency re­spon­ders within 30 seconds 95 per cent of the time.

Of course, we can only mea­sure the time that elapses after a call is placed. We can­not mea­sure the time re­quired to re­mem­ber or look up the seven-digit num­ber for a lo­cal fire depart­ment, po­lice, or am­bu­lance ser­vice, which may be fur­ther com­pli­cated when an in­di­vid­ual is vis­it­ing another com­mu­nity. The stress of an emer­gency situa- tion may also com­pro­mise a per­son’s abil­ity to re­mem­ber or as­cer­tain a seven-digit num­ber. No­tably, how­ever, the im­ple­men­ta­tion of provincewide 911 does not pre­clude a per­son from call­ing a lo­cal emer­gency re­spon­der di­rectly.

I agree with the as­ser­tions by Mayor Wayne Power and Mr. Bill Ho­gan that en­hance­ments to Ba­sic 911 are im­por­tant. Fol­low­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of provincewide Ba­sic 911 ser­vice, we will di­rect our ef­forts to­ward de­vel­op­ing a more en­hanced 911 sys­tem. We look for­ward to work­ing with the soon-to-be-es­tab­lished NL 911 Bureau Inc. to plan, de­velop and im­ple­ment Next Gen­er­a­tion 911, which in­cor­po­rates En­hanced 911 and, in ad­di­tion, al­lows emer­gency ser­vices to keep pace with chang­ing meth­ods of com­muni- cation and data trans­fer such as text mes­sag­ing and photo shar­ing.

The provincewide 911 ini­tia­tive will ben­e­fit peo­ple through­out New­found­land and Labrador, with im­proved ac­ces­si­bil­ity, con­sis­tent stan­dards of ser­vice, back-up staff and en­hanced re­li­a­bil­ity through two call­tak­ing cen­tres. This ini­tia­tive will also be built upon to en­able the even­tual im­ple­men­ta­tion of Next Gen­er­a­tion 911. I am com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ing to work col­lab­o­ra­tively with com­mu­nity lead­ers and emer­gency re­spon­ders to im­ple­ment and strengthen this im­por­tant ini­tia­tive. — Judy Man­ning is the Min­is­ter Re­spon­si­ble for Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices - NL

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