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Cell phone callers’ general location now available to 9-1-1

Vancouver—Public safety in southwest B.C. has received an important boost with the completion of Wireless Phase II — general location information from cellular phones to 9-1-1. E-Comm, the regional emergency communications centre, has been using the technology successfully for the past several months, well in advance of today’s national implementation deadline (Feb 1).

In the past, 9-1-1 call-takers have received only the address of the cell tower the call was transmitting from, which was of little use to emergency services. That’s because a cell tower can be many kilometres away from the actual emergency or in a different municipality altogether.

Following the implementation of Wireless Phase II, 9-1-1 call-takers now receive latitude and longitude coordinates that can be plotted on a computerized map. For those callers who absolutely can’t communicate their location, this technology has the potential to create a better search area that could assist in emergency response.

“Wireless Phase II will shrink the current search areas from up to four thousand metres to 300 metres or even less,” said Doug Watson, E-Comm’s Vice President of Operations. “This is a very positive step for 9-1-1 in Canada and a welcome addition to our technology support tools here at E-Comm.”

‘While this is a major advancement for 9-1-1, it is important for the public to understand that despite what they see in the movies, this technology will NOT pinpoint a caller’s exact location nor will it provide an exact address. Callers themselves still remain the best source of information and they should always be prepared to provide their exact location themselves (address, apartment numbers, cross streets, highway signs, trail markers). Location information can also be impacted based on the strength of the cell signal and terrain and should not be solely relied on.

Wireless Phase II is being implemented in stages in Canada because of the amount of technology development that’s required. The first stage, now completed at E-Comm and in most areas of the country, is general location information (latitude and longitude) and will be followed by the development of the technology required for mid-call location updates (e.g. callers in moving vehicles) and out-of-country cell phone users (roamers).

E-Comm worked closely with TELUS, the telephone network provider and all wireless providers (Rogers, Bell, TELUS Mobility), to have Wireless Phase II developed, tested, and fully implemented before the CRTC-mandated deadline of February 1.

E-Comm answers more than one million 9-1-1 calls each year for Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast, Whistler and Squamish. More than half of those calls come from cell phones. E-Comm provides dispatch for 24 police and fire departments including those in Vancouver, Richmond and Whistler*.

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Media Contact
Jody Robertson
604-215-4956

* complete list of E-Comm agencies

Police Dispatch
Bowen Island RCMP
RCMP Traffic Services (Freeway Patrol)
Richmond RCMP
Ridge Meadows RCMP
Squamish RCMP
Sunshine Coast RCMP
UBC RCMP
Vancouver Police Department
Whistler RCMP (including Pemberton & Stl’átl’imx Tribal Police Department)

Fire Dispatch
Delta Fire & Emergency Services
Egmont & District Volunteer Fire Department
Gibsons & District Volunteer Fire Department
Halfmoon Bay Fire Department
New Westminster Fire/Rescue Service
Pender Harbour Fire Department
Port Moody Fire-Rescue
Richmond Fire-Rescue Services
Roberts Creek Fire Department
Sechelt Volunteer Fire Department
Squamish Fire-Rescue
Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services
Whistler/Garibaldi Fire Department