UPDATE: Article now includes quotes from Mayor Gary Foster.

FORT NELSON, B.C – The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality’s 9-1-1 service is officially live after a decade of trying to establish the emergency line.

In a release on Wednesday, the municipality announced that residents can now call 9-1-1 to access police, ambulance or fire services. The ten-digit number previously used for emergency services will still be available in the municipality.

Mayor Gary Foster says the service is not only a benefit to residents but also to visitors who are used to calling 9-1-1 in case of an emergency.

“Americans coming into our area didn’t know that there was no 9-1-1 service here. When they travelled up the Alaska Highway, if they happen to get into an accident or have a health emergency, the first thing they would do is dial 9-1-1.”

Foster was surprised at how complicated the process was to get the service in the area. Multiple parties had to collaborate to make the service possible including phone providers and the provincial government.

“In most of Southern B.C, you have Bell, Telus and Rogers, and they have a system already set up for 9-1-1. We’re with Northwestel, it came under a different umbrella, Northwestel’s head office is in the Yukon,” says Foster. “It was just a little difficult getting all the parties at the table in all the different jurisdictions to sit down and work their way through this.”

The Grande Prairie Fire Department was contracted by the municipality to receive the calls. The FD is responsible for transferring calls to the required service as the Public Safety Answer Point (PSAP) provider for the municipality.

“Grande Prairie Fire has a long history of providing affordable and reliable service to several local governments in Alberta, some of which border the Municipality. This PSAP provider is well equipped to deal with emergencies in the Northern Rockies given its experience providing service to jurisdictions with similar geographies and climates,” says the release.

The municipality credits Honourable Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, and senior staff within the Ministry for pushing for the service.

“Glen Miller of Pomax Consulting brought a wealth of experience and insight to the exercise. Northwestel Inc., Bell Mobility, and Telus Mobility worked collaboratively with the Municipality to complete the project in a timely manner,” says the release.

The current service now lays the foundations for the Municipality to implement Next Generation 9-1-1 service going forward.