911 Services in BC

At present, local governments—mainly regional districts—operate 9-1-1 services on a regional basis, to meet local needs. A small number of municipalities provide their own 9-1-1 services or use other local government 9-1-1 service providers.

The 9-1-1 system manages over 1.5 million calls per year, at an annual cost of $12-$15 million. Funding for 9-1-1 services is generated through property tax and a levy on telephone landlines.

Current Provincial Review

In March 2015, the provincial government released a discussion paper, Emergency Communications Service Delivery in British Columbia, Police Communication Centres and 9-1-1 Public Service Answering Points; and soon after, published a summary of stakeholder consultations. Acknowledging the work of the working group, the discussion paper reiterated a range of challenges, including:

  • more users of cellular devices than landline telephones, with a corresponding drop in the revenue generated for the current 9-1-1 service model;
  • introduction and integration of Next Generation 9-1-1 technology and its associated costs;
  • gaps in 9-1-1 service provision in some areas of BC; and
  • 9-1-1 service resilience and business continuity, especially during a catastrophic event.

The Province’s strategic vision outlined “what is needed on a provincial level to address the challenges”—in particular, how to consolidate the 9-1-1 public service answering point and police dispatch service delivery model, and improve the current funding model.

Following release of the discussion paper, the Province reached out to affected local governments and requested a range of information regarding 9-1-1 services, including costs, funding sources, local emergency communication priorities, and whether there are areas without 9-1-1 service.

At the April 2016 UBCM Executive meeting, the Board approved a recommendation to endorse the provincial discussion paper and proposed call answer levy, subject to an agreement with the Province on the establishment of an independent body for revenue administration.

The provincial government continues to engage with local governments regarding 9-1-1 services.

Following UBCM endorsement of the provincial discussion paper and proposed call answer levy, in August 2016 the provincial government moved forward on UBCM’s condition of an independent body to administer revenue. By November 2016, the Province had hired a consultant to examine the process to date, research best practices, and recommend potential 9-1-1 governance models. The Province has indicated that it does not expect any legislative change to take place prior to the 2017 Provincial Election.

2013 Review by UBCM & Provincial Government

The UBCM membership has consistently endorsed resolutions calling for provincial legislation to implement a province-wide levy on cellular phone lines (a call answer levy, or CAL), as an additional source of revenue to contribute to the costs of delivering 9-1-1 emergency services.

In 2013, UBCM and the provincial government formed a working group that reviewed the delivery of 9-1-1 services in BC. The working group proposed improvements to province-wide 9-1-1 service and public safety, to be funded through a province-wide CAL. The working group sought agreement from the Province, local governments, and industry.

The 911 working group partnered with UBCM and Dave Mitchell and Associates Ltd. on a background paper [PDF - 1.3 MB]; consulted key stakeholders; and held a workshop at the 2013 UBCM Convention to garner input from UBCM’s members. Membership feedback was generally positive; however, it was a lack of province-wide stakeholder approval that contributed to the initiative being deemed unfeasible.

Metro Vancouver, in considering the funding of 9-1-1 services in BC, undertook an analysis of the financial implications to local residents; economies of scale achieved through its E-comm service; and the experiences of its member local governments. The Metro Vancouver analysis [PDF - 552 KB] concluded that the cost to local taxpayers would increase if a province-wide 9-1-1 levy were to be adopted in the Metro Vancouver area.

Correspondence

Province to UBCM re: 9-1-1 CAL on wireless devices [PDF - 25 KB] – Aug 2016
UBCM to Province re: 9-1-1 CAL on cellular devices [PDF - 92 KB] – July 2016
UBCM to Local Governments re: 9-1-1 CAL Feedback [PDF - 233 KB] – Oct 2013
Province to UBCM re: 9-1-1 CAL Working Group [PDF - 37 KB] – Nov 2012

Articles

Province Seeks Input on Emergency Communication – Apr 2015
9-1-1 Levy No Longer Under Consideration – May 2014
Province Wide Levy on Wireless Services – Nov 2013
Member Feedback Sought on Funding of 9-1-1 Services – Sep 2013
Funding Emergency 9-1-1 Services – Sep 2013

Contact

Bhar Sihota
Policy Analyst
bsihota@ubcm.ca
604 270 8226 ext. 114

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