911 service

In An Emergency Call...911
In Nova Scotia, more than 400 agencies respond to police, fire, and medical emergencies. With Nova Scotia's 911 service, you can get help in an emergency just by dialing 9 - 1 - 1....no matter where you are in the province.

Getting help is faster with 911 because
- 911 is easy to remember and dial
- 911 reaches all emergency responders
- the person who answers your call automatically knows the civic address you are calling from, the number of the telephone you are using, and the names of the police, fire , and ambulance agencies serving your area.

Below are the answers to questions people often ask about 911.

Q: What is a 911 emergency?
A: In a 911 emergency
- someone's health, safety, or property is threatened
- someone needs the fire or police departments or an ambulance to deal with that threat right away.

Q: What is not a 911 emergency?
A: Calls that are not 911 emergencies include:
- calls to police on administrative matters
- calls to fire departments about community services or events
- calls to ambulance services for the transfer patients between medical facilities.

Q: What happens when I dial 911?
A: First your call goes to the public safety answering point (PSAP) nearest you. The call taker will answer your call with the question "911, what is your emergency?". After you speak, the call taker will find out if the emergency is at the civic address you are calling from by asking "Is this emergency at...?". This is because many people call 911 to report an emergency they have seen happen somewhere else.The call taker may ask one or two quick questions to help decide which type of response (police, fire or ambulance) is needed. The call taker will then say "Stand by, and I will connect you with the police (or fire or ambulance, depending on your emergency)." By pushing one button, the call taker will then connect you to the dispatcher and give your name, address and information about your emergency. You can then speak directly with the dispatcher to give any more information.

Q: Can the 911 call taker see non-listed and non-published telephone numbers?
A: Yes. In an emergency, the agency that will respond must know as much about the caller as possible. Your privacy is still protected, however, because the call taker cannot get information about someone unless that person makes a 911 call.

Q: How important is it to display my civic number where it can easily be seen?
A: Very important. The emergency service that responds will look for that number on your home or business. They must be able to see it easily to find you quickly.Calling 911 and reporting your emergency is only part of what is required to get help. The other part is displaying your civic number so that it can easily be seen from the roadway that fronts your property. Civic numbers should contrast with the colour of the background: black numbers on a white background are best. The numbers should be large and placed under an outside light.

Q: What would happen if I dialed 911 but couldn't speak?
A: When no one answers, the call taker will ask a second time, "911, what is your emergency?" If there is still no response, the call taker will ask the same question using a TDD (telecommunications device for the deaf), in case the caller is hearing impaired. If no one speaks, the call taker will assume that there is an emergency. Police will be sent to the address right away.

Q: If I dial 911 and then hang up, will 911 know about my call?
A: Yes. The system's computer will tell the call taker that an incoming 911 call has been abandoned (the caller has hung up) and it will show the phone number and civic address. The call taker will give this information to the police right away. If the call turns out to be a non-emergency, the police may choose to take legal action if they feel that the caller was abusing the system.

Q: I have heard that 911 should not be programmed into the auto-dial memory of a telephone. Why not?
A: In Nova Scotia, as in most places that use 911 for an emergency responce, it is actually against the law to use an automatic dialer (the speed dial) to dial 911. Here is why.First of all, the number 911 is easy to remember and to dial in an emergency.Secondly, experience has shown that unless auto dialing is illegal, many people will accidentally make non-emergency calls through these devices. When the police have to investigate calls that turn out to be related to accidental dialing, they use time and resources that would be much better spent responding to real emergencies.

Q: So many people are connected to the same system. How can I be certain that my 911 call will be answered quickly?
A: The system has been designed to make sure that your call for help is always answered and answered quickly. Callers who do not have real emergencies may be transferred to a message that tells them that the line is for emergencies only.The system records the name and telephone number of all callers. People who abuse the system by placing non-emergency calls can be charged and can face serious penalties.

Q: What happens if many people decide to call 911 about the same emergency at the same time?
A: This can happen in a major emergency. If the call taker realizes that the same emergency is being reported, the call taker will tell you that it has already been reported. If there are many incoming calls, you may hear a message telling you not to hang up and that your call will be answered by the next available call taker.

Q: Can I call 911 from a pay phone?
A: Yes, and you won't need any money. Calls to 911 from pay phones are free. All pay phones have a civic address, which will help the emergency responders find your location.

Q: I have a cell phone. Can I still dial 911 in an emergency?
A: Yes, but a cell phone does not have a civic address, so it is extremely important that you know your location and the cell phone number, so that you can tell the call taker.

Q: How do people with disabilities call 911?
A: Each call taker has a TDD (telecommunication device for the deaf). Also, if callers use special telephone equipment related to their disabilities, this information will automatically appear on the call taker's screen.

Q: How is all the information on the 911 system kept up to date?
A: Every 24 hours, the 911 database information is checked against Maritime Tel and Tel's information on new phone numbers and new addresses for existing phone numbers - so the 911 database is updated every day.

Q: Who is providing 911 service to Nova Scotians?
A: The Province of Nova Scotia and Maritime Tel and Tel are providing 911 service. MTT is supplying the telephone lines and truncks, as well as all the equipment needed to answer 911 emergency calls. The government is responsible for civic addressing, public education, and all other aspects of the system.

Q: What can I do to prepare myself for a 911 emergency?
A: Make sure that every person in your home or business knows the correct civic address. The best thing to do is to post this information right by the telephone. Also, make certain that your civic number can be easily seen on your home or business.Children should also learn how to place a 911 call. When teaching this to children, be sure that you unplug the phone and explain that 911 is for emergencies only.

Q: Where can I get more information about 911?
A: If you have any questions about 911, you can contact the 911 Program Manager at:

Nova Scotia Department of the Environment
Emergency Measures Organization
P.O. Box 2107
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3B7
Telephone: (902) 424-5620 or
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: www.gov.ns.ca/emo/