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Minister reacts to provincewide 911 story


Regarding the Dec. 2, 2014, Compass article, "Local leaders concerned about 911 'middleman'," I take this opportunity to clarify some points for your readers about how provincewide 911 will work and government's plans for future enhancements.

Judy Manning, the Minister of Justice and Public Safety, says she’ll be traveling to Labrador in the very near future to talk with those involved in the justice system and issues they may have.

Significant progress has been made on the development of a provincewide Basic 911 system. At present, 911 is only accessible via landline to about 40 percent of the population, and via cellphone wherever a signal can be accessed. The new service will be available via landline throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. People throughout the province will be able to reach a live voice to connect to emergency assistance through a universal, easy to remember number.

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The valid observation that minutes can make a difference in an emergency (a statement attributed to Harbour Grace Deputy Mayor Sonia Williams in the aforementioned article) has inspired this project since its genesis. The provincewide 911 service will follow National Fire Protection Association standards, which require that 911 calls be answered within 15 seconds 95 per cent of the time, and transferred to emergency responders within 30 seconds 95 per cent of the time.

Of course, we can only measure the time that elapses after a call is placed. We cannot measure the time required to remember or look up the seven-digit number for a local fire department, police, or ambulance service, which may be further complicated when an individual is visiting another community. The stress of an emergency situation may also compromise a person's ability to remember or ascertain a seven-digit number. Notably, however, the implementation of provincewide 911 does not preclude a person from calling a local emergency responder directly.

I agree with the assertions by Mayor Wayne Power and Mr. Bill Hogan that enhancements to Basic 911 are important. Following the implementation of provincewide Basic 911 service, we will direct our efforts toward developing a more enhanced 911 system. We look forward to working with the soon-to-be-established NL 911 Bureau Inc. to plan, develop and implement Next Generation 911, which incorporates Enhanced 911 and, in addition, allows emergency services to keep pace with changing methods of communication and data transfer such as text messaging and photo sharing.

The provincewide 911 initiative will benefit people throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, with improved accessibility, consistent standards of service, back-up staff and enhanced reliability through two call-taking centres. This initiative will also be built upon to enable the eventual implementation of Next Generation 911. I am committed to continuing to work collaboratively with community leaders and emergency responders to implement and strengthen this important initiative.

- Judy Manning is the Minister Responsible for Fire and Emergency Services - NL

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