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Columbia Shuswap Regional District extends agreement for 911 service, awaiting system upgrade

Cost of Next Generation 911 system expected to be significant
911 services in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District are provided by E-COMM. (Facebook/E-Comm911)

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District will be looking at one-year agreements for the provision of 911 services until the 911 system is overhauled to utilize current technologies.

At its Feb. 16 meeting, the regional district’s board authorized a one-year extension (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2023) to the 911 Call Answer Centre Service Agreement the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) has with the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDNO), for $136,208 plus taxes.

In a report to the board, protective services team leader Derek Sutherland explained that since 2014, the CSRD and seven other regional districts have been in a contract with RDNO for the 911 service, which is provided by E-COMM. In recent years, RDNO has been entering into one-year agreements with E-COMM due, in part, to increasing costs. However, as Sutherland explained, the CSRD has another reason for one-year contracts: the impending transition to “Next Generation” 911 services.

“The reason why we’re going into these one-year contracts is we’re going into a new system upgrade that’s mandated by the federal government with the Next Generation 911,” said Sutherland. “Essentially, our infrastructure is about 40 years old and it’s starting to fail.”

In his report, Sutherland explains next generation services will integrate smart technologies to improve location services, and will use available technology to “improve and introduce alternative communication mechanisms through the 911 system.”

Sutherland said the cost of the upgrade has not yet been determined, but is expected to be significant and passed along to all local authorities using the service.

“The authorities using this service are lobbying the provincial government to consider mandatory service charges on cell phones and landline services to offset the cost of major capital infrastructure replacement in the future,” reads Sutherland’s report. Call answer levies are used elsewhere in Canada, and Sutherland said they are usually nominal amounts automatically applied to telephone services.

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“To date, there is no indication that British Columbia is moving to a similar model. This places the entire burden of paying for system upgrades on the local authorities using the service rather than the end user.”

Area E director Rhona Martin noted one of the advantages to having a land line with the current system is that emergency services can identify where you are. She asked if this will be the case with the next generation system. Sutherland said with next gen 911, the dispatcher will be able to access the GPS on the phone that’s calling to see exactly where the caller is.

“Also, it will be able to do other interesting things like send CPR instructions with a video to your phone if you have to provide that kind of service to somebody who needs it,” said Sutherland. “There will be all sorts of interesting technological opportunities presented with this next generation 911.”
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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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