CIRA funds a study of institutions for next generation 9-1-1

Our dot ca registry, CIRA, announced this morning that the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group (CITIG) has won a grant to study institutions for next generation 9-1-1

CITIG is a not for profit emanation of the Chiefs of Police, Chiefs of Fire and Chiefs of Ambulance associations. Philip Palmer and I are the contractors who will execute the work under the direction of CITIG, in the guise of The Windermere Group.

In that capacity I attended, all too briefly,  in Quebec City on Tuesday this week a meeting of the Emergency Services Working Group (ESWG). The ESWG is the group that coordinates 9-1-1 activities between the carriers, first responders and the CRTC.

One item in the meeting of the ESWG considered the issue of next generation 9-1-1. In that capacity, Bernard Brabant, an expert who works for the Quebec government’s 9-1-1 organization, gave a general introduction to what NG9-1-1 would look like. The theme might have been “9-1-1 service providers, meet the Internet”.


The assumptions of his presentation were that:

  1. The fundamental local institutional and operational frameworks for 9‐1‐1 services will remain in effect.
  2. Communications services will increasingly be delivered by digital devices over IP networks.
  3. NG9‐1‐1 system architecture will be based on open, non proprietary standards and technology.
  4. NG9‐1‐1 System will address the needs of special populations, such as the deaf and hard‐of‐hearing

But Mr. Brabant freely admitted that some institutional change may occur. For instance, in this morning’s announcement by CIRA, one of their first points was:

  • The current 9-1-1 system is not nationally coordinated, with each province or municipality deploying a system that works for their individual needs. The imminent deployment of next-generation 9-1-1 services means that the country has an opportunity to deploy technologies that would allow emergency personnel to work more closely together and share resources.

The nature of Internet technology will allow, if people want it, provincial-level or national level exchanges of information, and cooperation, as may be needed, without any change of local institutional frameworks, and especially no change of provincial authority over operations. After all, domain name registries work on 24 hour a day, 365 days a year up-time. The databases that will allow people to be located by 9-1-1 responders will not need to be housed in any particular place, so long as governments are satisfied that the data is secure, and that the organizations that hold the information are trustworthy. So provinces will need appropriate powers over those who hold the data on behalf of them and their citizens.

The kinds of technologies that can be deployed for emergency response and 9-1-1 dispatch cannot be less able than the devices in people’s hands. That is my governing assumption.

The transition to NG9-1-1 will be a multi-year process. There is time for ideas, attitudes and institutions to evolve.

It was good to hear the sound of flexibility and adaptation at the ESWG.

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