Emergency Notifications & Information

What is 9-1-1?

9-1-1 emergency telephone number makes it easier for residents to obtain urgent police, fire and ambulance assistance.  The three digit number is brief, easy to remember and is used throughout most of North America.

 Call or Text 9-1-1 Emergency Number for Police Fire or Medical Assistance

VoIP Calling and 9-1-1

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is increasing in popularity among Canadians as an alternate means of obtaining telephone service in homes and businesses. If you are contemplating a switch to VoIP service, or have already done so, it is important to understand that 9-1-1 calls using VoIP may be managed differently, depending on your provider and type of VoIP service offered.

There are two types of VoIP – “Fixed” and “Non-fixed”.  A Fixed VoIP service is normally provided over a private communication network such as a local cable service.  An important feature of Fixed VoIP telephone numbers is that they are associated with a fixed address.  When a 9-1-1 operator receives an emergency call at their workstation, they see both the caller’s phone number and street address on their computer screen.  This additional information assists in an emergency when the caller cannot speak because the operator can see the address where the call is originating from.  This level of 9-1-1 service is referred to as Enhanced 9-1-1 or sometimes E9-1-1.

Non-Fixed VOIP services on the other hand, are delivered via an Internet connection, so telephone numbers do not need to be associated with a physical address. Therefore, when a 9-1-1 call is made using Non-Fixed VoIP (sometimes referred to as Nomadic VoIP), the 9-1-1 operator will see a telephone number, but often not an address. This is known as Basic 9-1-1 service.  If for some reason a caller cannot speak and tell the 9-1-1 operator the location of the emergency, there could be a delay receiving help.  Subscribers with a Non-fixed VoIP service may be able to assign an address to their VoIP telephone number, but if they move, they must remember to update this critical information or emergency responders may be dispatched to the wrong location.  Common Internet-based VoIP providers in Canada include Yak, Vonage, VOIPo and Skype.

Benefits of VoIP service include low-priced or free calling and number portability (subscribers can use the same telephone number for multiple devices or retain their number when they move).  Some drawbacks however include a lack of common phone services such as a phone directory listings, 4-1-1 service and in some cases, 9-1-1 service.

Although VoIP services are generally very reliable, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) requires that Non-fixed VoIP service providers inform customers that VoIP 9-1-1 service is different from traditional 9-1-1 service.  When signing-up for Non-fixed VoIP service, customers must formally acknowledge and accept potential limitations regarding 9-1-1 calls.  Read your service contract carefully so that you are familiar with this information.

It is also important to understand that during a power or an Internet outage, VoIP services, including 9-1-1, will be unavailable (some Internet modems contain a battery back-up to provide for short-term telephone use, but you should confirm this with your cable service provider).  VoIP users need to consider how they will make emergency calls under such circumstances.  Although traditional telephone service is becoming less common, those telephones will work in a power outage (except cordless phones which require electricity).  Cellular phones also use a different network, so they may function for a time during a power outage, when VoIP services may not.

It is important that you do not call 9-1-1 to test your phone or ask about VoIP services.  Call your VoIP service provider!

Enhanced 9-1-1

On May 1, 1995, Enhanced 9-1-1 was officially activated within the County of Lambton.  For landline telephones, Enhanced 9-1-1 provides information on the 9-1-1 call-taker’s screen such as the telephone number, the municipal address of the building where the phone is connected and the name of the occupant.  This information is transferred along with the telephone call.  If the emergency is not taking place at the caller’s location, the caller must be able to explain where the emergency response is required.

9-1-1 calls can be made from cellular phones, but since cellular phones are mobile, there isn’t necessarily an address associated with those phones.  Check with your service provider, but your phone may be located by its GPS feature and a general location provided to the 9-1-1 call centre.  Cell phone callers must however be prepared to provide their location when calling 9-1-1 (i.e. street address or nearest street intersection or prominent building or landscape feature).

Calling 9-1-1 from a payphone is free but you should be prepared to provide any information requested by the 9-1-1 call taker.

Text 9-1-1

On April 15, 2015, Text with 9-1-1 (T9-1-1) was activated in Lambton County.  T9-1-1 is a service that is available for those who are hearing or speech impaired.  This service provides 9-1-1 call-takers and emergency services with the ability to converse with hearing or speech impaired callers during an emergency, using text messaging.

In order to use the T9-1-1 service however, your cellular phone must be compatible with T9-1-1 requirements, must be registered with your cellular phone company, and have the capability to send and receive text messages.  Please visit your cellular phone company’s website for details on registering your phone and its compatibility with T9-1-1 service.

Why is T9-1-1 not for everyone?

Voice calling remains the preferred way to communicate with 9-1-1 services for a person that is not hearing or speech impaired.  During an emergency, time is of the essence and talking enables faster communication than texting.  T9-1-1 calls require more time than a voice call to communicate with emergency services.

How to make a T9-1-1 call (if you are registered for the service)

Dial 9-1-1 on your cell phone, if you are registered for T9-1-1 service.  There is no need to speak as 9-1-1 call-takers receive an indicator that tells them when to communicate via text messaging.  The 9-1-1 call-taker then initiates text messaging with the caller to address the emergency.

It is important to remember that the original call to 9-1-1 must be made by dialing 9-1-1 from your cell phone as this establishes direct contact with the 9-1-1 call-taker.  Text messages sent to the digits “9-1-1” do not reach emergency services.

Dialing 9-1-1 provides the 9-1-1 call-taker with the caller’s telephone number, which is used to initiate text messaging with the caller.  Dialing 9-1-1 also provides the call-taker with the approximate location of the cell phone.

Dialing 9-1-1 also establishes a voice channel that enables the call-taker to hear any background noises, which can be very helpful to assess the emergency and to provide enhanced 9-1-1 functions.

Please do not call 9-1-1 to test the T9-1-1 service.  Your cellular phone company can confirm your T9-1-1 registration.

For further information regarding the T9-1-1 service and what you need to know, visit textwith911.ca.

Using 9-1-1

When to use 9-1-1

EMS Responding to 9-1-1 Emergency

9-1-1 should be used to request emergency assistance or to provide crucial information to emergency response personnel.  Use 9-1-1 to report a crime in progress (exercise extreme caution though), to report a fire or to call for medical assistance – whenever a prompt response is required to a critical situation.

Police, fire or ambulance (or any or all of these services) will be dispatched based on the information provided to the 9-1-1 call taker.

When should 9-1-1 not be used?

9-1-1 should not be used to obtain information (i.e. weather or traffic information, etc.) or to report something that occurred in the past (i.e. a break-in that occurred yesterday or a dinged car in a parking lot).  Never call 9-1-1 to “test” the system.

One of your best sources of information during an emergency within Lambton County may be one of the four Sarnia-Lambton radio stations – 1070 AM, 99.9 FM, 103.9 FM and 106.3 FM.  Tune to one station and remain tuned to it unless advised otherwise.  Residents with specific information needs might be directed to call 2-1-1.

How to use 9-1-1 in an emergency

Simply dial 9-1-1 and your call will be answered by a 9-1-1 call taker.  Try to be calm and speak slowly and clearly.  Listen carefully to the questions being asked and answer them completely.  9-1-1 call-takers and police, fire and ambulance dispatchers are trained to obtain the information necessary to respond to your emergency call.

If you call 9-1-1 by mistake, stay on the line to explain to the call taker that everything is alright.  If you do not remain on the line, the call taker may call your number back or dispatch a police vehicle to investigate.  To avoid dialing 9-1-1 by mistake, it is recommended that the number not be entered into a programmable telephone.

All 9-1-1 calls are recorded.

What happens when 9-1-1 is called?

The 9-1-1 call taker will ask if you require police, fire or ambulance. Based on your answer, your call will be transferred to the emergency dispatch agency requested.  You must be prepared to state the nature of the emergency and answer all questions asked of you.  Answering questions does not delay the emergency response!

If at all possible, do not hang up the telephone until you are advised to do so by the 9-1-1 call taker.

The County of Lambton contracts 9-1-1 call taking services from the Ontario Provincial Police for the entire County except the City of Sarnia & the Village of Point Edward.  An O.P.P. call taker in North Bay, Ontario answers 9-1-1 calls made within Lambton (except the two aforementioned municipalities) and immediately transfers the calls to the appropriate local emergency communications centre.     9-1-1 calls originating in Sarnia and Point Edward are answered by Sarnia Police Services 9-1-1 call takers.

Non-Emergency Calls

Police, fire and ambulance departments all have administrative telephone numbers to receive non-emergency calls.

The simplest way to determine if your call is an emergency is to ask yourself, “Am I, or someone else in a potentially life-safety or life-threatening situation that requires a response by an emergency service(s) to provide assistance?”

If you are in doubt, call 9-1-1, but if the answer is absolutely “No”, then please call the appropriate administrative telephone number below:

Police

Ontario Provincial Police (for areas outside of the City of Sarnia): 1-888-310-1122
Sarnia Police Services (for areas within the City of Sarnia only): 519-344-8861

Fire

Refer to your area telephone book for your local fire department’s administration number.

Ambulance

Emergency Medical Services Department (all of Lambton County): 519-882-2442

For Your Information:  During a major incident where a large number of land ambulances are needed to transport patients, or be on stand-by at an emergency scene, other ambulances from across Lambton County (and neighbouring municipalities and counties, if necessary) are re-positioned to ensure full coverage for “routine” ambulance calls from the public. This is called “Balanced Emergency Coverage” and it insures that residents in the region have immediate access to emergency medical assistance when they call 9-1-1.

Other Services

Keep a list of other non-emergency telephone numbers such as your telephone service provider, electricity provider, public utility etc.