911 - Questions and Answers
All Albertans have been paying a 911 levy on their landlines for many years. The changes will ensure all phone users (both landline and cellphone users) contribute to Alberta’s 911 call centres. Many other provinces have introduced or are looking at introducing similar changes.
The 911 levy is part of the Emergency 911 Act which came into effect April 1, 2014. It is a monthly fee, not a per-call charge. No one will have to pay for making a 911 call when they need help.
The funding goes directly towards 911 call centres and administration of the fee; it will not be used for unrelated initiatives.
The 911 levy is $0.44 cents per month, the same amount as the landline fee, which has been in place for many years.
Funding from the levy will be reinvested directly into 911 call centres, so they can adopt province wide standards, introduce new technology and continue giving Albertans the service they rely on.
There is a 911 fee that cellphone companies may charge their customers, but it was never a source of funding for Alberta’s 911 call centres.
Cellphone companies use this fee to fund infrastructure and administration costs related to connecting their users to Alberta’s 911 service.
It is charged by individual telecommunications companies, and the Government of Alberta has no authority over this fee, nor do 911 call centres benefit from it.
All wireless companies charge the fee and clearly identify it on customer phone bills. They then send the funding collected from the fee to the Government of Alberta who distributes it to 911 service providers across the province.
Each fiscal year, the 911 levy will raise approximately $18.65 million across Alberta.
Cellphone providers are entitled to keep 15.9 per cent of the 911 levy for their administrative costs. Government’s administrative costs will be approximately 2.9 per cent each year.
The standards are continually being developed in collaboration with 911 centres to help ensure strong processes and procedures exist for 911 across the province.
Any 911 call made deliberately to abuse the system could be deemed frivolous and subject to a fine.
Frivolous 911 calls can waste time and resources that our 911 call centres need to address emergency 911 calls from Albertans in need. The intent of this fine is to deter individuals from abusing the system.
911 operators who feel that they have been subject to frivolous calls will be able to place a complaint with their local police service.
No one will be fined for calling 911 in good faith or by accident.
The maximum fines are $5,000 for first time offenders and $10,000 for repeat offenders.
The Emergency 911 Act relates to 911 call taking, not emergency services dispatch. However, it will contribute to other efforts to improve emergency services in Alberta.
Next generation technology includes technology like GPS and texting.
For example, in the future, someone who is hearing impaired could text 911.
Or, if someone having a heart attack loses consciousness during a 911 call, the operator could still pinpoint the location using GPS.
The Emergency 911 Act will support 911 call centres as they make plans to integrate next generation technology such as GPS and texting into their operations.
Text with 911 is the capability for a deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired person to communicate with 911 services using wireless-based text messaging. This will make it much easier for these users to contact 911.
The first Text with 911 service in Alberta began in April 2014 and other 911 call centers will start offering this service through to 2016; exact details will be posted on the Text with 911 website when each call center is ready.
At this time, text with 911 is only intended for deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired persons. They must register for the text with 911 service with their wireless service provider. When a deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired person requires 911 services, they dial 911 on their cell phone. There is no need for them to speak as the 911 Call Taker will receive an indicator that tells them to communicate with the caller via text messaging. The 911 Call Taker then initiates text messaging with the caller to address the emergency.
Initially, text with 911 will be available only for the deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired Canadians. Voice calling remains the best and most effective way to access 911 services for a person that is not deaf, hard of hearing or with speech impairment. Text with 911 requires more time than a voice call to communicate with emergency services. However, Text with 911 will be quicker than the current TTY system in place for deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired users.
This service will eventually be available across Canada. The Canadian industry has come up with a unique Canadian solution for the deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired to be able to contact 911 via text messaging. For service availability, please visit the Text with 911 website.
Municipal Affairs will be supporting local 911 call centres with new funding through the Emergency 911 Act. This increased level of support will assist call centres to invest in the new technology that enables Text with 911. The Emergency 911 Act came into force in April 2014, and quarterly grant payments to 911 call centres started shortly after that.