The B.C. government announced Wednesday it will be investing $150 million into the provincial emergency communications system. “When people experience a life-threatening emergency, they need to know they can count on an accessible and reliable 911 system,” said Mike Farnworth, B.C. Solicitor General and Minister of Public Safety.“Next Generation 911’s advanced technology will help ensure safer and coordinated emergency responses. Our $150-million investment will support local governments through a transition to Next Generation 911.”Next Generation 911 will give people the choice to contact 911 through new options such as texting and caller location features, according to the province.E-Comm, the organization that handles 99 per cent of the province’s 911 calls, is leading the implementation of the new system in B.C. municipalities. Pending approval by the legislative assembly, the $150 million will help “offset local governments’ costs for the transition,” the government said in a press release. Story continues below advertisement The investment will be split into two parts, with $90 million going to E-Comm for technological updates and $60 million going to the Union of BC Municipalities to defray staffing, training and quality assurance costs.“Working together with municipalities, regional districts and First Nations to improve emergency communications is vital to enhancing public safety for people living in and travelling through the most remote parts of the province,” said Lisa Beare, B.C. Minister of Citizens’ Services.“We are working to improve connectivity in B.C. because everyone deserves to have access to the services they need, especially emergency services, no matter where they live.”In 2022, the union that represents E-Comm staff was publicly vocal about being “critically understaffed.”Emergency Communications Professionals of BC (CUPE 8911) said dispatchers were working “forced overtime” and going long stretches without breaks in an “unsustainable” environment.CUPE 8911 president Donald Grant said the one-time $150-million investment will now allow for more staff to be hired and will work to address 911 wait times that have been a significant issue in the recent past.“We’re very pleased that B.C.’s Budget 2023 included an investment into Next Generation 911,” he said. Story continues below advertisement “Municipalities are primarily in charge of the 911 services. They initially were having to fund both this technological upgrade and increase staffing levels.“What this funding means is that municipalities are now freed up to focus on staffing challenges.” 2:00 E-Comm releases list of top nuisance calls of 2022 © 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
B.C. puts $150M into 911 service; E-Comm union hopeful staffing challenges will be solved