Calling 911

The Emergency Management Office (EMO) administers the 911 Emergency Service within Nova Scotia. EMO provides all the training, specialized computer software and standard operating procedures. Call answering is provided through a partnership with public and privately owned emergency dispatch centres at four locations across the province. EMO has a rigorous quality assurance-quality control program to ensure a consistently high level of service. Inquiries regarding the 911 service are always welcome and should be directed to 1-866-424-5620.

Know When to Call 911. A 911 emergency happens when someone’s health, safety or property is threatened and help is needed right away. If you aren’t sure if your situation is a 911 emergency it is best to call and let the experts decide whether help needs to be sent or not.

Know When Not to Call 911. 911 is for emergencies only. It is not to be used for general inquiries such as calls to police concerning ongoing investigations, or calls to fire departments about community events. Inappropriate use of 911 ties up valuable resources. Intentional abuse of the system can lead to charges.

What to Expect. When you call 911 the call taker will ask, “911, what is your emergency?” Stay on the line with the call taker and answer all questions. Expect to be asked:

  • The nature of the emergency
  • The complete address of the emergency, including civic number, street name and type, community and county
  • To confirm the telephone number you are calling from
  • The call taker will then link you directly to the appropriate emergency responders — fire, police, ambulance or the poison information centre — in your area. Speak directly with the agency and provide any additional information they need.

Know Where You Are. This is probably the most important piece of information you can provide. Knowing your location and being able to give this information to the 911 call taker will mean that emergency responders can be dispatched sooner. If you call 911 from a traditional landline phone the call taker has immediate access to your address; however if you are calling from a cell phone or VoIP phone you must be able to provide information about your location to the call taker. When placing a 911 call, you should take note of highway/road signs/exits, civic numbers, buildings and landmarks in the immediate area. To make it easier to locate emergencies, the provincial government has erected highway distance signs along 100-series highways at one-kilometre intervals. These markers tell drivers the highway number, direction of travel and their location along the highway.

Never Hang Up. You may have called 911 by accident, or the situation may have resolved itself; however it is important to let the call taker know this. If you hang up, the 911 call taker will assume that something has gone wrong. They will attempt to call the number back and may even have help sent. This ties up valuable 911 and police resources that could be responding to a real emergency.

Know the Capabilities of Your Device. You can call 911 from a variety of devices (traditional landline, cellular, VoIP); however the information that accompanies your call differs considerably with each device. It is important that you are familiar with the benefits and limitations of the various devices you use. For more information on cellular and VoIP visit the sections on this site. You may also wish to contact your service provider for more details.

Using a Traditional Landline. This is currently the safest way to make a 911 call in Nova Scotia. When calling 911 from a traditional landline telephone, the call taker has immediate access to: • Your phone number (even if it is a non-listed or non-published number) • Your complete address • Police, fire and medical responders for your area If you call 911 from a landline telephone and you cannot speak, emergency responders can still be dispatched because your address appears on the 911 call taker’s screen. It is important to have at least one conventional phone that plugs directly into the wall. Portable phones require electricity and will not work during power outages.

Never Pre-program 911. It is illegal in Nova Scotia to program 911 into any telephone, including cellular phones, as this often causes accidental calls to 911.

911 Calls Requiring Special Assistance. Each call taker is equipped to receive 911 calls directly from individuals who are using a TTY device for the hearing or speech impaired.

If English is Not Your First Language. Nova Scotia’s 911 system provides translation services in more than 170 languages. The 911 call taker has the ability to “conference in” an interpreter to translate calls.

Source: N.S. Emergency Management Office (EMO)