The universal three digit telephone number, 9-1-1, is reserved for reporting and requesting emergency assistance in communities across North America.
When a prompt response is needed, 9-1-1 provides citizens with access to a minimum of three basic emergency services--police, fire and ambulance.
9-1-1 is a municipal service. The residents of a community usually identify the need for the service and the decision to install 9-1-1 is made by the elected officials of the municipality.
Calls for 9-1-1 travel over a dedicated network which by-passes the public telephone system.
When reporting an emergency, the simple three digit 9-1-1 number connects the caller to a central emergency reporting bureau (CERB). There, a professionally trained call-taker determines the location and nature of the emergency and routes the call or the information to the appropriate emergency agency. Assistance is on the way in seconds.
Several important call features are offered with an enhanced 9-1-1 system:
Emergency Ringback - allows the call-taker to contact the caller if he/she accidentally hangs up or collapses during the call before all the necessary information is obtained.
Forced Disconnect - allows the call-taker to free a 9-1-1 line if the caller forgets to hang up after reporting the emergency. This feature also limits the ability of callers to intentionally block CERB lines.
Bureau Hold - allows the CERB to maintain control of the 9-1-1 lines for as long as the emergency situation warrants.
Calling Party Disconnect Signal - provides a tone to notify the call-taker of an on-hook condition.
Enhanced 9-1-1 incorporates all the features in addition to providing the call-taker with the phone number and associated service address of the caller. This special feature called automatic number identification/automatic location identification (ANI/ALI), enables emergency services to locate a caller who may be incoherent or unable to talk during a crisis.
There are many benefits that accrue to the community and the participating emergency agencies with 9-1-1 service.
9-1-1 provides quick public access to police, fire and ambulance services. Seconds often determine whether lives are saved and calamities averted in emergency situations.
The number is quick and easy to remember and dial.
Precious moments are eliminated in locating a telephone directory and choosing the appropriate emergency agency from the confusing array.
Because 9-1-1 is known across North America as an emergency response number, visitors and new residents unfamiliar with their locale will feel secure knowing assistance is available quickly in a moment of crisis.
Free 9-1-1 dialing is offered at pay telephones.
Calls are received by trained personnel, hence valuable time is saved dispatching emergency assistance once the call reaches the central emergency reporting bureau.
Improving the response time for an emergency is the primary benefit of 9-1-1, however the system provides many other benefits particularly to the participating emergency agencies:
9-1-1 facilitates the reporting of a crime.
9-1-1 acts as an effective crime deterrent, reducing the number of false alarms and criminal uses of telephone lines.
These benefits translate into a direct annual saving to emergency services, thus eliminating the costs involved in responding to false alarms.
Communities with 9-1-1 have experienced improved coordination among emergency agencies particularly when multiple services are required to handle a single incident. Others have used the data collected by the 9-1-1 system to improve performance and to maximize the utilization of human resources.
Three basic emergency services - fire, police and ambulance - must be offered as part of all 9-1-1 systems by regulation of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Municipalities who choose to include other services such as gas and hydro hotlines, domestic violence crisis lines and public works departments may do so at an additional cost to the municipality.
Bell's network-based 9-1-1 service will deliver a call selectively routed to the right location with the telephone number and service address displayed. The effectiveness of selective routing depends to a large extent on the availability of a civic address. Without a unique civic address, selective routing will revert to a default location for the telephone exchange from which the call originated.