9-1-1 Services for Traditional Wireline, VoIP and Wireless Phone Services

On June 1st, 2017, we directed all telephone companies to update their networks in order to be ready to provide next-generation (NG9-1-1) voice and text messaging services to all Canadians in the near future. Learn more!

Access to emergency services is critical to the health and safety of Canadians. An effective emergency 9-1-1 system is an important part of ensuring that you have access to a world-class communications system.

If you have any concerns or want to make a complaint regarding your 9-1-1 service, please call 1-877-249-2782.

Text with 9-1-1 Service for Canadians with hearing or speech impairments (T911)

Text message access to 9-1-1 services is now available for hearing or speech impaired Canadians in most areas of Canada.

Telephone and wireless companies have made the upgrades needed to support Text with 9-1-1 service. It is now up to 9-1-1 call centers to implement certain changes to their systems and make this service available. 9-1-1 call centers are operated by municipal and provincial/territorial governments.

Once Text with 9-1-1 becomes available in their area, hearing or speech impaired persons need to register for the service with their wireless service provider. In case of emergency, registered users must first dial 9-1-1. The 9-1-1 operator will then receive a notification to communicate with them via text message.

Please visit the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association’s Text with 9-1-1 website regularly for more information on the service, its availability and how to register.

Note that this service is expected to be replaced by NG9-1-1 text messaging service according to the timelines included in our recent NG9-1-1 decision.

Learn more about other accessible phone services.

Basic, Enhanced, and Next-generation 9-1-1 services

Basic 9-1-1 service connects a 9-1-1 call to a call centre. The caller must identify his or her location to the 9-1-1 operator, who then connects the call to the emergency response centre serving that area.

Enhanced 9-1-1 service connects a 9-1-1 call to an emergency call centre and automatically provides the 9-1-1 operator with the phone number and address or location of the caller.

Next-generation 9-1-1 services will also connect 9-1-1 calls to emergency call centres and automatically provide the 9-1-1 operator with the phone number and address or location of the caller. In addition, NG9-1-1 will enable Canadians to interact with 9-1-1 call centres using new and innovative services and capabilities such as text messaging, and the transmission of photos, and videos. Learn more on these upcoming services.

Either Basic or Enhanced 9-1-1 service is available to almost all subscribers in Canada. Most subscribers receive Enhanced 9-1-1 service, and Basic 9-1-1 is provided in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Yukon, where the 9-1-1 call centres have not yet been upgraded to receive Enhanced 9-1-1 information. Where 9-1-1 service in not available, such as in Nunavut and Northwest Territories, emergency services are contacted using a normal telephone number.

9-1-1 services: Traditional wireline telephone, wireless and VoIP

The 9-1-1 service you receive depends on the type of telephone service you use to make the call, and whether you are in an area that has either Enhanced or Basic 9-1-1 service:

Traditional wireline telephone 9-1-1 service

With a traditional wireline service:

  • you make or receive calls from a fixed address.
  • you receive Enhanced 9-1-1 service, where the caller’s phone number and address are automatically provided to the 9-1-1 operator, except where Basic 9-1-1 service is provided.
  • you can still make calls during power outages, because it doesn’t require power from within the home. However, cordless telephones do not work during power outages and therefore cannot be used to access 9-1-1 service in that situation.

Wireless 9-1-1 service

Wireless phones can be important safety tools, but because they are mobile, they aren’t associated with one fixed location or address. This mobility, however, makes it harder for both service providers and 9-1-1 operators to pinpoint the location of a 9-1-1 call.

There are two types of wireless emergency 9-1-1 services:

Wireless Basic 9-1-1 service

This type of wireless 9-1-1 service is provided in areas that receive Basic 9-1-1 service. When a wireless 9-1-1 call is made, the wireless carrier connects the emergency call to a 9-1-1 call centre that serves the area of the cellphone tower that the calling wireless handset is connected to.

Wireless Enhanced 9-1-1 service

This type of wireless 9-1-1 service is provided in areas that receive Enhanced 9-1-1 service. To improve the safety and security of Canadians, the CRTC required wireless carriers to upgrade their 9-1-1 services to provide an enhanced capability to identify the location of wireless 9-1-1 callers. This is particularly important in emergency situations where the caller is unable to speak or cannot identify his or her location. This improved location capability is enabled by two technologies:

Global Positioning System (GPS) or Triangulation Capability

With Enhanced 9-1-1, wireless carriers use Global Positioning System (GPS) and/or Triangulation technology to identify a 9-1-1 caller’s location (generally within 50 to 300 meters of the cellphone). The emergency call and the caller’s location are automatically transmitted to a 9-1-1 call centre serving that area.

Not all cellphones have GPS capability. To get more information on a cellphone’s capabilities, check your manual or ask your wireless service provider. GPS capability uses signals from satellites to determine a cellphone’s location.

If your cellphone does not have GPS capability, wireless carriers can also use triangulation technology, which locates the caller by measuring the cellphone signal’s distance from nearby cellphone towers.

The location information, as determined by either GPS and/or triangulation, will be provided to the 9-1-1 operator if you are using either a cellphone with pre-paid minutes or a wireless service plan. If you have a cellphone but are not subscribed to any service, you can still dial 9-1-1 in an emergency and receive basic wireless 9-1-1 service.

The location information, as determined by either GPS or triangulation, will be provided to the 9-1-1 operator if you are using either a cellphone with pre-paid minutes or a wireless service plan. If you have a cellphone but are not subscribed to any service, you can still dial 9-1-1 in an emergency and get basic wireless 9-1-1 service.


Consumers who are thinking of changing or moving to a new local telephone service provider should ask the provider if it offers 9-1-1 service. If not, you may want to get service from a different service provider.

The type of VoIP service determines the type of 9-1-1 service available to emergency callers using VoIP services.

Fixed VoIP service

With Fixed VoIP service, calls can only be made from a fixed address. A Fixed VoIP service is normally provided over a private communication network (such as your cable service provider at home) instead of over the Internet. Fixed VoIP service provides Enhanced 9-1-1 service equivalent to that provided by traditional wireline service, except where Basic 9-1-1 is provided.

Nomadic VoIP service

Nomadic VoIP service is provided over the Internet and lets callers access telephone services using any high-speed Internet connection from any location.

Nomadic VoIP service provides Basic 9-1-1 service because there is no fixed address to provide to 9-1-1 operators. The mobility of this service makes it very hard for both service providers and 9-1-1 operators to pinpoint the location of a 9-1-1 call.

VoIP service providers’ obligations

  • All Local VoIP service providers must provide either Basic or Enhanced 9-1-1 service. (Telecom Decision CRTC 2005-21)
  • Nomadic VoIP service providers and those who provide fixed VoIP service in a city where the area code of the telephone number provided belongs to another area code region (another city) must notify subscribers about the availability, characteristics and limitations of their 9-1-1 service when the service starts and at least once a year thereafter. (Telecom Decision CRTC 2005-61). Nomadic VoIP service providers must obtain express customer consent that the customer understands the limitations of their 9-1-1 service. (Telecom Decision CRTC 2005-21)
  • All local VoIP providers must register with the Commission as a reseller if they do not own or operate their own transmission facilities, or as a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier if they do own and control those transmission facilities.

Tips when making 9-1-1 emergency calls

  • Tell the 9-1-1 operator the nature and location of the emergency as soon as they ask for it.
  • Give the 9-1-1 operator your phone number, so that if the call gets disconnected, they can call you back.
  • Stay on the line and follow instructions unless the 9-1-1 operator asks you to hang up.
  • If you get disconnected, call back.

Additional tips for VoIP

  • Make sure your location information is up to date with your service provider. The operator may assume that you are at the last registered address if you are not able to speak during a 9-1-1 call.
  • During a power (unless battery back-up is provided) or an Internet outage, VoIP services, including 9-1-1, will be unavailable.

Unintentional 9-1-1 calls

One challenge with wireless technology is the increase in 9-1-1 calls made by mistake from mobile devices in pockets and purses. These calls can delay help for other 9-1-1 callers experiencing real emergencies.

To prevent accidental 9-1-1 calls:

  • If children use mobile devices, ensure they are informed on the importance of only calling 9-1-1 for real emergencies and how to prevent 9-1-1 calls made by mistake
  • when you’re not using your mobile device, turn it off, or lock the keypad
  • do not program your mobile device to automatically dial 9-1-1
  • If your mobile device is pre-programmed with the auto-dial 9-1-1 feature turned on, turn the feature off. Check your user manual for instructions.

If you dial 9-1-1 by mistake, stay on the line and tell the 9-1-1 operator that there is no emergency and that the call was unintentional.

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