As Nova Scotia’s 911 emergency telephone service enters its 10th year of operation, plans are in the works to upgrade call-taking equipment with an entirely new operating system. Provincewide introduction of the 911 system took place nine years ago on July 7. As part of the province’s commitment to leading edge 911 technology, the new 911 operating system will be upgraded later this fall to allow the introduction of many enhanced features including provincewide digital mapping. “Since 1997, 911 has been a top-quality emergency telephone service upon which Nova Scotians can rely,” said Ernest Fage, Minister of Emergency Management. “This life-saving service is important to all Nova Scotians. That’s why it’s imperative that we continue to improve our system and stay current as technologies advance.” Officials at the Emergency Management Office as well as management and staff of the 911 centres in Nova Scotia said the anniversary is also a good time to remind the public how advancements in telecommunications technology can impact 911 service. With so many options for phone service now available, it is important for people to understand that there are limitations in how these new technologies align with conventional 911 service. “Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) transmits calls over the Internet and is a technology that is beginning to be more widely used. It can have an effect on an individual’s level of 911 service,” said John Webber, manager of the largest 911 centre in the province. Numerous companies provide VOIP service. One of the selling features is that a person can take their phone out of their home, to their office, or anywhere across the country. But, Mr. Webber said, customers need to know that the trade-off for this enhanced portability is that their 911 call may no longer route to the closest 911 centre, as with conventional phones. “Callers must be prepared to provide additional location information and a call back number. If the caller does not know this vital information, it can limit our ability to respond to the 911 call,” Mr. Webber said. EMO officials recommend that individuals take a buyer-beware-attitude. They should ask questions and consider their safety when choosing from the many phone options that are now available.