Canada's 911 services are still a patchwork mess, and fixes are needed before cellphone and text-messaging emergency requests become the norm, says a new CRTC report.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) report says 911 operators often don't know what emergency information is needed from callers due to a lack of co-ordination between the system, emergency providers, and users.
For instance, without an exact location provided, calls from cellphones can often be traced only to the nearest cell tower, not to the actual location of the desperate caller.
"The 911 system is working because of the good faith of its participants, but not because we have the appropriate institutions of governance," report author and outgoing CRTC commissioner Timothy Denton wrote.
The report outlines the growing challenges with the increased use of cellphones, as well as voice-over Internet protocol (VOIP) phones and the transition to all Internet-based communication devices.
Denton says there's no plan to adequately address the changes necessary to transition to the next-generation 911, when, for instance, text messaging photos and video would be useful information to operators.
Already, the report says, there is a gap between what people expect from 911 services and what they can offer.
The study recommends a national advisory body be created.
The CRTC is now asking for recommendations from the public on how day-to-day technology can be used to modernize the 911 service.