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Province working to improve 911 service

New supports will come to 911 call centres across Alberta, including the one in Red Deer, so that they can better manage new technologies and have more legal protection.

Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths said the province is working on a number of changes to improve 911 service.

This includes the introduction of provincewide procedures and processes; more legal protection; integrated technologies like GPS and texting; introducing penalties for prank calls; and ensuring equity among phone users in contributing to the cost of 911 service.

“We still have a little more work to do, but we’re hoping to introduce the legislation in the spring,” said Griffiths on Thursday.

It’s hoped the changes will then be launched in the fall, he added.

One thing that will change involves cellphone users. Cellphone users do not contribute to the cost of 911 services. It’s estimated that up to 70 per cent of all calls involve cellphone service.

Griffiths says it’s proposed that 44 cents per month be added to the bills — the same charge applied to land lines. Revenue has decreased significantly to 911 call centres because fewer calls are made from land lines.

He expects that the changes will mean 911 call centre staff members like those in Red Deer will have greater confidence in doing their jobs effectively.

“The 911 centres have said that there are no standardized legislation as to what we are liable for,” said Griffiths. “If someone gets sent to the wrong place or a call gets dropped off ... it’s very rare that anything happens, which is why we haven’t had any issue. But the job of a dispatcher is pretty paramount to the (people) in our community.”

A total of $16 million will also be distributed to the centres provincewide to create these new supports.

“They’ll see a pretty good increase in their revenue and so they’ll be able to enhance the services they provide,” said Griffiths. “So I think we’ll see a stronger, evolving service.”

Griffiths said there are no plans to consolidate 911 centres. The network of about 17 centres does a good job, he added.



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