Access to 911 services for Canadians with hearing or speech impairments through the use of text messaging will soon be possible where 911 services are currently available in Canada. When the T911 service has been activated in an area, a deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired person will need to pre-register for the service with their wireless service provider. Then, when they require 911 services, they will be able to dial 911 on their cell phone and the 911 call taker will receive a notification that tells them to communicate with the caller via text messaging.
Telephone and wireless companies must complete their upgrades by January 24, 2014. Please contact your wireless service provider to find out when the service will be launched in your area.
Basic 911 service connects a 911 call to a call centre. The caller must identify his or her location to the 911 operator, who then connects the call to the emergency response centre serving that area.
Enhanced 911 service connects a 911 call to an emergency call centre and automatically provides the 911 operator with the phone number and address or location of the caller.
Either Basic or Enhanced 911 service is available to almost all subscribers in Canada. Most subscribers receive Enhanced 911 service, and Basic 911 is provided in parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Yukon, where the 911 call centres have not been upgraded to receive Enhanced 911 information. Where 911 service in not available, such as in Nunavut and Northwest Territories, emergency services are contacted using a normal telephone number.
The 911 service you receive depends on the type of telephone service you use to make the call, and whether you are in an area that has either Enhanced or Basic 911 service:
Traditional wireline telephone 911 service
With a traditional wireline service:
Wireless 911 service
Wireless phones can be important safety tools, but because they are mobile, they aren’t associated with one fixed location or address. This mobility, however, makes it harder for both service providers and 911 operators to pinpoint the location of a 911 call.
There are two types of wireless emergency 911 services:
Wireless Basic 911 service
This type of wireless 911 service is provided in areas that receive Basic 911 service. When a wireless 911 call is made, the wireless carrier connects the emergency call to a 911 call centre that serves the area of the cellphone tower that the calling wireless handset is connected to.
Wireless Enhanced 911 service
This type of wireless 911 service is provided in areas that receive Enhanced 911 service. To improve the safety and security of Canadians, the CRTC required wireless carriers to upgrade their 911 services to provide an enhanced capability to identify the location of wireless 911 callers. This is particularly important in emergency situations where the caller is unable to speak or cannot identify his or her location. This improved location capability is enabled by two technologies:
Global Positioning System (GPS) or Triangulation Capability
With Enhanced 911, wireless carriers use Global Positioning System (GPS) or Triangulation technology to identify a 911 caller’s location (generally within 50 to 300 meters of the cellphone). The emergency call and the caller’s location are automatically transmitted to a 911 call centre serving that area.
Not all new cellphones have GPS capability. To get more information on a cellphone’s
911 service, check your manual or ask your wireless service provider.
GPS capability uses signals from satellites to determine a cellphone’s location.
If your cellphone does not have GPS capability, wireless carriers can also use triangulation technology, which locates the caller by measuring the cellphone signal’s distance from nearby cellphone towers.
The location information, as determined by either GPS or triangulation, will be provided to the 911 operator if you are using either a cellphone with pre-paid minutes or a wireless service plan. If you have a cellphone but are not subscribed to any service, you can still dial 911 in an emergency and get basic wireless 911 service.
The type of VoIP service determines the type of 911 service available to emergency callers using VoIP services.
Fixed VoIP service
With Fixed VoIP service, calls can only be made from a fixed address. A Fixed VoIP service is normally provided over a private communication network (such as your cable service provider at home) instead of over the Internet. Fixed VoIP service provides Enhanced 911 service equivalent to that provided by traditional wireline service, except where Basic 911 is provided.
Nomadic VoIP service
Nomadic VoIP service is provided over the Internet and lets callers access telephone services using any high-speed Internet connection from any location.
Nomadic VoIP service provides Basic 911 service because there is no fixed address to provide to 911 operators. The mobility of this service makes it very hard for both service providers and 911 operators to pinpoint the location of a 911 call.
VoIP service providers’ obligations
Additional tips for VoIP
One challenge with wireless technology is the increase in 911 calls made by mistake from cellphones in pockets and purses. These calls can delay help for other 911 callers in real emergencies.
To prevent accidentally dialling a 911 call:
If you dial 911 by mistake, stay on the line and tell the 911 operator that there is no emergency and that the call was unintentional.