News : Alberta Cellphone Levy Raised for 911 Call Centres Since April
Alberta, Canada, July 30, 2014 -- Alberta's emergency call centres are getting a boost for better technology thanks to the province's new cellphone levy.
The monthly levy charged by cellphone carriers in Alberta was implemented on April 1. The provincial government expects it to generate revenue for 911 call centres in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Previously, only landline users contributed to 911 services but as Albertans increasingly rely on their cellphones, the government says the move will help emergency centres continue to fund operations.
"911 is one of the most vital public safety services"¦ This funding will go a long way to help cover the costs of sustaining our call centres," said Municipal Affairs Minister Greg Weadick.
The government says the initial disbursement will begin rolling out this summer. The grant amounts are determined by both call volume and population.
Acting Deputy Chief Kevin Galvin, in charge of the Edmonton Police Service's Investigative Support Bureau, said the first priority for the city's call centre is better technology.
"So an upgrade in our 911 dispatch software and an upgrade in our hardware. We need higher volume computer lines and bigger computers to store text-to-911 data," he said.
"We're also looking at increasing the floor space of our 911 centre because we know we need more 911 operators. As much as we change the technology and modernize it so we can take texts, video and pictures to 911, it's more complicated than that because we need the people and we need the space."
Edmonton's 911 call centre currently has a combination of 40 full-time and part-time staff with six full-time 911 operators working per 12-hour shift. The centre averages between 1,300 and 2,000 calls daily.
Galvin said the government will also bring in provincial standards for 911 "which we're also excited about because at least then we can all talk off the same song-sheet, have the same language, common goals and focus as we build our centres."
Last month, EPS officially launched its Interactive Voice Response System (IVR), an automated non-emergency phone line that can provide information like police station locations, reporting crimes online and non-injury collisions -- which police don't respond to, freeing up valuable resources for other calls.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Edmonton Police Service (EPS) is the municipal police force for the City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Published: Friday, August 1, 2014