Markham prepares for Next Generation 9-1-1

The City of Markham is preparing for the evolution to Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1), which will provide callers with new ways to access emergency services from multiple devices and platforms, including text, location, pictures and video.

Under a new shared service agreement, Barrie Fire & Emergency Services (BFES) will provide 24/7 emergency call-taking and dispatch service to Markham Fire & Emergency Services (MFES) by the end of this year.

Markham Fire Chief Adam Grant

“By being proactive, both cities will benefit from this partnership and be ready to fully leverage the capabilities of NG9-1-1,” MFES Chief Adam Grant says. “Markham is working to modernize all aspects of fire protection service delivery and this is a major step towards achieving this vision.”

Currently, 9-1-1 dispatchers ask callers for their location. Though landlines are tied to a physical address, cellphones don’t provide that information. A process known as ‘triangulation of cell towers’ can provide a caller’s approximate location to the nearest road intersection but response times could be hindered if cellphone callers don’t know where they are or are unable to speak or hear.

In 2017, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) directed all telephone and mobile wireless companies to update their networks in order to be ready to provide NG9-1-1 services under a new internet-based system.

Essentially, every connected phone will have an Internet Protocol (IP) address, which will be cross referenced with a database that comprises every street address in an area and the entry location of buildings, allowing the 9-1-1 system to accurately pinpoint the location of a caller.

Eventually, Canadians will be able to stream video from an emergency incident, send photos of accident damage or a fleeing suspect, and send personal medical information, including accessibility needs, which could greatly aid emergency responders,  reports the CRTC.

It regulates the telephone and mobile wireless companies that carry 9-1-1 calls to emergency call centres. Call centres and the emergency responders they dispatch, such as fire, police and ambulance, fall under the jurisdiction of municipalities, provinces and territories.

The agreement between Markham and Barrie will help offset capital and operating costs associated with maintaining Barrie’s emergency communications and dispatch centre while allowing MFES to improve responsiveness and modernize emergency services, the City of Markham reports.

The BFES Communications Branch will serve 21 municipalities, including Barrie and Markham, its largest client municipality. In 2020, BFES dispatched more than 21,250 emergency incidents.

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