Despite a new government created crown corporation that will now oversee 911 calls, how those calls are handled in the southeast will not change.
"Essentially what the government is doing is centralizing 911 services," explained Estevan Police Chief, Paul Ladouceur, "and having the government oversee those services directly rather than having partnerships established through Prince Albert Police where they have been answering our 911 calls for a long period of time in any event."
"So essentially what happens when a caller calls 911, that call actually gets transferred to a call centre in Prince Albert. And that's where your 911 communicators would pick up the phone ask what the emergency is. If the person requires police, fire or ambulance and depending on the call, will then dispatch those units to wherever those units are require."
"For example, if someone were to call for a break and enter in progress in Estevan an dial 911, the call would go immediately go to Prince Albert, the communications operator there would determine that police were required and they would patch that call through to us, to our communicators here."
"What it does is centralizes everything for the 911 process. Nothing is going to really change for the person making the 911 call, they will still call 911, they will still be transferred to the organization or the service they require and those services will then be dispatched."
He adds that many people believe that when they call 911, they are talking to someone in Estevan.
"No, it goes to that central call centre, they evaluate what emergency services are needed. If it's police, that call goes to us, it it's fire, that call goes to Fire, if it's a medical emergency, it goes to ambulance. If it's all three, it goes to all three of us."
"We won't see a change in how we're doing business right now, it's just under a different umbrella of government right now. And it does make sense because at the end of the day, technology changes so fast when it comes to telecommunications and computer operating systems. There's a lot of technology that goes into dispatching so by centralizing that and having it under a crown corporation, with oversight by the Saskatchewan government, it ensures that the latest and greatest technology will always be updated for those centres."
Chief Ladouceur goes on to share a bit of information regarding 911 calls.
"Generally when someone calls 911, there's usually good reason, and they're usually in a panic. The biggest thing is to try and remain calm and stay on the line. The operator is well trained in the questions to ask. The caller's part in making the response quick and smooth, is to try and provide that information when they're asked for it as calmly as possible."
"Obviously the biggest thing callers need to communicate when calling 911 is their location. Especially when it involves a call from a cell phone. When it's a landline, it's obviously a lot easier to track that back to a residence address. When it's a cell phone, it's not easily done. So it's really important to provide your location, provide your name, provide a phone number and what the emergency is."
"It's not as important to say what services you require as it is to provide the information about situation. Communicators are trained, if you say, "My house is on fire!", obviously they're going to send Fire. If it's a car accident though, they'll often ask, "Is there injuries?" so that they know they don't need to just send police, but they also need to send ambulance."
He also noted that being specific in relaying your location can also help.
"These are highly trained communications officers and they will try and get the best information on location as possible, keep in mind that that call comes to the Estevan Police. Although it is Prince Albert that that call is going to, that call will be transferred to us. So if you say, "I'm at McDonald's and I need the police," that call is coming to the Estevan Police dispatch centre just as it is relayed. So our local dispatchers will know that location."
"But there are locations in the city that aren't as familiar and you might not want to assume that everyone knows where your're at. "I'm at John's house," that may be common to you and your friends but that might not be common to the police. The more detail, the better, an address is ideal, anything that identify your exact location is preferred. If you don't have an exact address, a lot of times they will ask you what's around you. Giving more than one point of reference is always preferred because often times, there is more than one restaurant in the city, especially when we look at larger centres and if you say you're at McDonald's and there's three McDonald's in the city, it's a problem."
He adds that the seriousness of the situation is also important to convey to the communicators.
"The last thing we want to see is police cars, fire trucks and ambulances rushing to the scene, lights and sirens flashing, putting their safety and the public safety in jeopardy for something that isn't as serious as been reported."
He also mentioned that once you report the information, if that information changes, you need to be able to update the communicators so more services can be dispatched or other services can be called back.
As well, he added that they often will see accidental 911 calls or hangup calls. If that occurs, you are asked to remain on the line.
"If we receive a 911 call, we are responding. We have to respond no matter what because we don't know if someone is forcing that person to say that everything's okay. So we have to respond."
"They're used to dealing with panicked people and people who are really emotional but it always helps and makes it a lot easier on the responders if you can remain as calm as possible when you are providing that information."
Regina and Saskatoon will remain the only centres in Saskatchewan that Prince Albert does not cover. However, they will now report to the new crown corporation as well.