After a five-month delay, a long-awaited 911 emergency service will be coming to every community in the Northwest Territories in November 2019.
Alfred Moses, Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA), announced the new start date in the legislative assembly on Tuesday.
“The days of residents and visitors to the Northwest Territories not knowing how to
contact community emergency services will finally come to an end,” said Moses. “I am pleased to announce that, as of November 2019, our residents and visitors will be able to call 911 from every community in the Northwest Territories.”
Currently, residents of all 33 communities in the Northwest Territories must dial a 10-digit number to reach their local RCMP detachment in the event of an emergency.
“There have been several emergency situations over the years and across the territory
where having a 911 service would have improved response times and, in some cases,
even saved lives,” said Moses.
Under the new system 911 dispatchers will link the caller with existing emergency services in their community. In some cases the dispatchers will provide medical care over the phone until those services arrive.
Recruitment will begin this month for bilingual 911 emergency dispatchers. MACA will work with community governments to make sure local emergency referral information is correct.
In April, Eleanor Young, MACA’s deputy minister, announced the GNWT’s previously stated commitment to launch the 911 service by June 30 would be re-evaluated “to ensure that it remains valid.”
During a presentation to the Standing Committee on Government Operations, Young warned there could be delays, as telecommunications companies couldn’t begin preparatory work until Bill 31, the Northwest Territories 911 Act, passed on March 11.
“Based on our initial discussions with the telecom provider, we do think that there may be a little more time required than anticipated,” Young said at the time.
This summer and into September the required infrastructure for the new 911 system will be installed and NortwesTel will conduct “rigorous territorial-wide telecommunications testing” to ensure the system works in every community, said Moses.
“On September 3, 2019, the 911 dispatchers will begin their intensive training and support of systems testing, which will continue until the go-live date,” he said.
Once the service goes live in November, the GNWT will launch an awareness campaign through mail, media and signage in all territorial and municipal buildings.
“Until then, members of the public should call the existing emergency numbers in their communities,” said Moses.