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, Yukon, and Northwest Territories 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, 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 approximate 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 trilateration capability

With Enhanced 9-1-1, wireless carriers use Global Positioning System (GPS) and/or trilateration technology to identify a 9-1-1 caller’s approximate location (generally within 50 to 300 meters of the cellphone). The emergency call and the caller’s approximate 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 trilateration 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 trilateration technology, 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.


All VoIP service providers are obligated to provide access to 9-1-1 services. Regardless, consumers who are looking to attain new local telephone services through a VoIP provider are encouraged to verify that the service allows them to effectively dial 9-1-1 and reach an emergency call centre.

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

Local VoIP services

  • Provide 9-1-1/E9-1-1 service, where it is available from the ILEC (see paragraph 52 of Telecom Decision 2005-21).

Fixed/native local VoIP services

  • Provide 9-1-1/E9-1-1 service, where it is available from the ILEC, which is to include provisioning end-user information in the ALI database associated with the end-user’s serving PSAP, and routing 9-1-1 calls, along with automatic number identification (ANI) and ALI data, to the correct PSAP in a manner that is compatible with the PSAP’s systems. Call control features are to be supported to the extent technically feasible (see paragraph 52 of Telecom Decision 2005-21).

Fixed/non-native and nomadic local VoIP services

  • Implement an interim solution that provides a level of 9-1-1 service, in areas where 9-1-1/E9-1-1 service is available from the ILEC, that is functionally comparable to Basic 9-1-1 service (see paragraph 68 of Telecom Decision 2005-21).
  • The interim solution must connect an emergency call to an intermediary, which in turn transfers the call to the proper PSAP or emergency services agency (see paragraph 61 of Telecom Decision 2005-21). As well, this solution must ensure that a 9-1-1 call originating from a local VoIP service is not routed to a PSAP that does not serve the geographic location from which the call is placed (see paragraph 68 of Telecom Decision 2005-21).
  • Regarding the determination of the caller’s location using nomadic local VoIP service,
    • the primary means of identifying the location of a 9-1-1 caller is by verbally determining the caller’s location;
    • if a 9-1-1 call is disconnected before the operator can verbally determine a caller’s location, the operator must attempt to call back in order to determine the caller’s location; and
    • the registered service address should be used only when the 9-1-1 caller cannot communicate his or her location or when a 9-1-1 call is disconnected before the 9-1-1 caller’s location can be determined, and the operator cannot re-establish contact with the caller (see paragraph 10 of Telecom Circular 2008-2).
  • Implement the capability to provide VoIP service provider (VSP) operators with a 9-1-1 caller’s telephone number, and require VSP operators to use the provided telephone number as a last resort to re-establish contact with a 9-1-1 caller, when a 9-1-1 call is disconnected before the caller’s location has been determined (see paragraph 17 of Telecom Regulatory Policy 2011-426).
  • Use zero-dialed emergency call routing service as the interim solution to route fixed/non-native and nomadic VoIP 9-1-1 calls to the PSAPs, pending the development and implementation of a long-term fixed/non-native and nomadic VoIP E9-1-1 solution (see paragraph 60 of Telecom Decision 2007-44).
  • Contact customers each time billing address changes are made to confirm the most likely physical address for emergency purposes, and ensure that customers are able to update their most likely physical address online (see paragraph 45 of Telecom Decision 2010-387).
  • Provide initial customer notification regarding any limitations that may exist with respect to 9-1-1/E9-1-1 service before service commencement. This information is to be made available through all of the following: marketing material used for television, radio, and printed media, the terms and conditions of service, on-line material, customer service representatives, service contracts, and starter kits. In addition, provide on-going customer notification during service provision through all of the following: marketing material used for television, radio, and printed media, the terms and conditions of service, on-line material, customer service representatives, warning stickers affixed to telephone sets, and billing inserts (see paragraphs 93 and 94 of Telecom Decision 2005-21).
  • Submit to the Commission proposed texts for customer notifications, which must adhere to the requirements set out in Telecom Decision 2005-61 (see paragraph 15 of Telecom Decision 2005-61).
  • In cases where there are limitations on VoIP 9-1-1/E9-1-1 service, obtain, prior to commencement of service, the customer’s express consent, by which the customer acknowledges his/her understanding of the 9-1-1/E9-1-1 service limitations, using one of the methods approved in Telecom Decision 2005-15 (see paragraph 98 of Telecom Decision 2005-21).
  • Provide all customer notification and any printed information used to secure express customer consent in alternative formats (e.g. Braille and large print) upon request. Furthermore, explain all customer notification and printed information to customers upon request (see paragraph 98 of Telecom Decision 2005-21).

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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