Data Not Found

I was surprised recently that I had a hard time finding something. It wasn’t something big or terribly important; it wasn’t a grey area question or an interpretation of legal information. All I want to know is where 9-1-1 calls are answered in Alberta. No one asked me about this, but the Proclamation of the Emergency 911 Act and the publication of the Emergency 911 Grants Regulations made me curious about who exactly would be eligible where a regulation says:

Eligibility criteria

4 Any person owning or operating a public safety answering point is eligible to apply for a grant

A public safety answering point. The Alberta Emergency Management Agency website told me that there are 21 9-1-1 call centres in Alberta. It also told me that this new legislation is intended to address several challenges, including:

  • A monthly 911 levy on cellphones.
  • A way to create standards for 911 call taking.
  • Legal protection for 911 call centre staff.
  • Fines for frivolous 911 calls.
  • Support for “next generation” technology.

After considerable digging, fruitless searching, and a ridiculous amount of frustration when you consider the skill and experience I brought to the equation, I finally learned something.

In March of 2013, the Health Quality Council of Alberta released a report “Review of the Operations of Ground Emergency Medical Services in Alberta” that spoke to the 911 – Public Safety Answering Point system. A news release background document spoke to some of the key recommendations.

The HQCA report answered my questions about the PSAP system:

In Alberta, municipalities are responsible for PSAPs. There are two models: a PSAP may operate as a
standalone centre; or, it may work within an emergency dispatch centre. An emergency dispatch centre
may include a single agency (i.e., police, fire, or ambulance), two of these agencies, or all three.

In a standalone PSAP, the call-taker answers the 911 call, asking the caller whether he needs police, fire,
or ambulance. Then the call-taker transfers the call to the appropriate agency’s dispatch centre, located in
another building or another community.

Page 24 of the report had a map showing the location of public safety answering points in the province.

Where didn’t I find this information? Alberta’s Open Data Portal, Google, by searching the Government of Alberta umbrella website for “public safety answering point”, the Alberta Emergency Management Agency website.

Until I knew that a map existed in the HQCA report, the answer to the question “where are the Alberta PSAPs” eluded me.

In an age of Open Data isn’t it easier to find information? My answer – NO.
I should have just called a friend at the Alberta Government Library.

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