Toronto Fire Services makes history with Avaya, becoming first PSAP in Bell Canada Territory to enact NG9-1-1

The first telephone call was made almost 150 years ago in Ontario, Canada by Alexander Graham Bell. Today, that call would probably look different. He might have texted Mr. Watson, recorded a video, or sent a DM. There are so many ways we now communicate, and we don’t think twice about the details. We expect to know where someone is, what communication device or application they’re using, and more in real-time as we engage. This is the norm in today’s highly connected, digital world. 

We have yet to see this paradigm shift in Canada for emergency communications, but it’s coming. Per the CRTC’s NG9-1-1 timeline, Canadian public safety answering points (PSAPs) must transition to NG9-1-1 by March of 2025. That means they must move from the existing E9-1-1 network (designed for analog phones, which Canadian service providers have been instructed to decommission by this deadline) to NG9-1-1 capabilities. The vision for NG9-1-1 which will be realized over time could see a text message from a mobile device or an electronic request through an IoT device (ex: your Tesla automatically dialing 9-1-1 when the airbag deploys), with the PSAP receiving and processing the call including situational awareness with additional information being provided about the call, caller, and location (e.g., medical alert, hazardous materials, etc.). 

Avaya is at the forefront of this critical movement, most recently enabling Toronto Fire Services (TFS) as the first PSAP in Bell Canada territory to migrate to Next Generation 9-1-1- (NG9-1-1).   

Toronto Fire Services’ Move to NG9-1-1 

In July 2023, Avaya, in collaboration with partners like; Komutel, a multi-sided and industry leading PSAP organization for ambulance dispatch communications; Netagen, an Avaya systems integrator providing a fully managed, all-in-one NG9-1-1 solution; and 9-1-1 service providers like Bell, helped the TFS communication center accept, process, and transfer the first ever public network initiated NG9-1-1 test call conducted in Canada. TFS staff used their smartphones to dial 9-1-1, which was answered by the city’s primary PSAP operated by the Toronto Police Services, which then transferred the call to the Toronto Fire Services’ NG9-1-1 system. TFS communications staff processed the mock call successfully within the new NG9-1-1 compliant system and existing live dispatch system. 

In December 2023, TFS officially moved from its existing E9-1-1 network to NG9-1-1, making them the first-ever PSAP to do so in the Bell Canada territory. Key features include:

IP-based infrastructure: TFS no longer needs to rely on analog technology, instead using internet protocol (IP) networks that enable more efficient and flexible data transfer.

Geospatial information: NG9-1-1 will eventually enable accurate location information through GIS (Geographic Information System), enabling TFS to pinpoint each caller’s exact location.

Interconnectivity: Communication and information sharing is seamless between the multiple PSAPs that might be involved in processing the 9-1-1 call or handling the emergency.

Enhanced call routing: TFS can kick emergency response into high gear with the ability to intelligently route calls based on location, load balancing, and other factors.

Here’s what this means for Toronto Fire Services:

  • Faster response time: It’s estimated that thousands of lives could be saved every year by reducing 9-1-1 response times by just one minute. The interoperability of TFS’ NG9-1-1 system accelerates response times through rapid data sharing, mitigating injuries, preventing economic loss, and saving lives. 
  • Situational awareness: Pinpointing the exact location of a caller is critically important for their safety and the safety of those responding to the scene. Situational awareness means less time navigating smoke-filled rooms and more time getting people out.  
  • Improved call processing times: TFS can more efficiently manage emergency call transfers and call overload, significantly improving operations and emergency outcomes. 
  • Digital transformation: TFS is innovating without disruption by leveraging a highly agile and tightly integrated platform that meets new citizen and operational requirements.

The Hopes of Decades Past Become Reality

The kind of advancements needed to enhance emergency communications in Canada were a pipe dream as long as emergency calls remained on legacy analog networks. Avaya, along with others, is helping make NG9-1-1 a reality. We imagine Alexander Graham Bell would be proud! 

Avaya has been an active contributor to Canada’s Emergency Services Working Group (ESWG), working with telecom service providers, PSAPs, and 9-1-1 industry specialists to address the top issues that relate to the provisioning of emergency services and the operational and technical aspects of NG9-1-1, and for addressing calls coming from multi-line telephone systems (MLTS). In 2019, we made history by conducting the first-ever NG9-1-1 test call using a commercially available system in Canada. In 2021, we equipped  a large provincial healthcare provider with an NG9-1-1 capable Call Handling Platform to be used by more than 20 central ambulance communication centers, over 1,000 phone lines, and more than 200 operators. This is only the beginning as Canadian PSAPs begin their mandated modernization journey.

Learn how Avaya can add NG9-1-1 capabilities to your communication platform, be it from the PSAP/receiving side or the enterprise/sending side, to transform 9-1-1 services.