MUSKOKA - Installing kilometre markers on rural roads could help 911 callers pinpoint their locations for emergency crews more effectively and quickly, a District of Muskoka report suggests.
Tabled at a planning and economic development committee meeting on Dec. 15, the report examines the possibility of installing the markers on non-urban roads in Muskoka. The markers have been installed along a number of other Ontario highways, including Highway 60 in Algonquin Park, and are popular in the United States.
“These signs assist a caller in identifying their location while driving on more remote highway sections,” said Graham Good, the district’s manager of geomatics.
According to Good’s report, it would cost $95,000 to install the markers along Muskoka’s rural roads, with additional costs needed to maintain the signage in the future.
None are currently installed on Highway 11, where motorists rely on interchange markers and exit ramps to identify their locations.
Although hydro poles have unique identifiers that can help 911 call takers pinpoint a caller’s location, those markings are usually a small bar code number, which can be difficult to see from the road.
Adapting the dispatch system to rely on hydro pole identifiers would also require a legal agreement to receive and distribute data from Hydro One, and not all emergency dispatch centres are equipped to use hydro pole markers in pinpointing calls.
The committee has yet to make a decision on the idea of installing kilometre markers, and the district’s engineering and public works department has not yet allocated any funds for such an initiative.
In the event of emergencies on and around railways, Good said the district has access to GIS data for CN Rail markers, but has not yet acquired similar information for CP rail lines.
Along snowmobile trails, the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs has provided the local ambulance service with a web-mapping link to help 911 call takers locate callers on trails.
Another report by Good also mentions the possibility of changing the 911 verification program, which is aimed at verifying and correcting civic address errors. Under the program, summer students hired by the district visit a sample of addresses throughout Muskoka to conduct 911 test calls from each address. The OPP, however, has become concerned these test calls would bog down 911 call takers from receiving calls for real emergencies.
Alternatives include having students verify civic addresses against a Bell Canada database, or using GIS technology to confirm the location of docks, buildings or driveways.
Although the current 911 verification system costs $14,000 each year, Good’s report says a modified system would not require an additional budget allocation.