Maritimes Scanning Site

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Last updated April 18, 2010     Link to EHS official website

This page is intended to be a description of a public service organization in Nova Scotia and lists and describes only what is publicly available in print, on official websites, on the public airwaves or visually to members of the general public.   Any photographs linked here are to my knowledge taken in public locations unless otherwise noted. This page is not intended to intrude on the privacy of any patients or others who may be involved in incidents.  Those who wish to comment on this issue are welcome to email me at marscan1 (at)


Apart from paging systems, the communications of hospitals and ambulances in Nova Scotia are on the 800 MHz  Nova Scotia Trunked Radio System ("TMR").   Site and frequency details for the TMR are found elsewhere on the Maritimes Scanning Site.   ID's of most talkgroups in use by ambulance dispatch and hospital check-in and similar communications are listed farther down this page you are now reading.   The hospital system is described first, followed by ambulance.

1. Hospitals and Public Health Centres

The hospitals in Nova Scotia are all operated by public bodies, mostly regional health authorities; but there are two operated directly by the provincial government, one by the federal government, and one by an independent public board (the IWK Health Centre).  There are no private hospitals operated for a profit.  Facilities and services are provided overwhelmingly through taxes, with some input from charitable contributions and volunteer service organizations and individuals.  Non-Canadian readers may be interested to know that medical service in Canada is essentially without charge.  Extra charges are only incurred where the patient wishes to upgrade accommodations from ward level to semi-private or private room or if non-essential services are involved.   Physician care, testing, emergency room service, operations and obstetrical service are all free of charge to the user, so that in this country there is little or no financial worry about basic medical care.  Of course taxes may be higher to compensate.   Currently in Canada, some provinces have recently permitted or are considering permitting the introduction of private facilities charging fees.   Some hospitals have an ambulance station co-located, one example being the Cobequid Community Health Centre in Lower Sackville.   Note however that ambulance services are not free and those carried are billed directly or through their medical insurance provider if they have one.

Aberdeen New Glasgow  1904
All Saints Springhill  16048
Annapolis Valley Health Ctr Berwick  3120
Bayview Memorial Health Centre  Advocate Harbour 36080 shared with South Cumberland
Buchanan Memorial Neil's Harbour  16272
Cape Breton Regional Sydney  1968
Cobequid Emergency (at Cobequid Community Health Centre) Lower Sackville (0700 to 2200 daily) 36656
Colchester Regional Truro 36048
Dartmouth General Dartmouth 36528
Digby General Digby  3152
East Coast Forensic Hospital  Halifax (Burnside) (at Central 
NS Correctional Facility
Not on EHS tg's, but may use Justice tg's
Eastern Memorial Canso  36176
Eastern Shore Memorial Sheet Harbour  16112
Fisherman's Memorial Lunenburg 36816
Glace Bay General  Glace Bay  16144
Guysborough Memorial Guysborough 16080 (shared with St. Marys)
Hants Community Windsor  3088
Highland View Regional Amherst  2032
Inverness Consolidated Inverness  16208
IWK Maternity Division Halifax 36336
Lillian Fraser Memorial Tatamagouche  3184
Musquodoboit Valley Middle Musquodoboit  36752 (shared with Twin Oaks)
New Waterford  New Waterford 16176
North Cumberland Mem Pugwash  16016
Northside General North Sydney  2000
Nova Scotia Hospital (psychiatric) Dartmouth  not thought to use the system (No ER)
QE II Health Sciences Ctr Halifax 36592
Queens General Liverpool 3056
Roseway Shelburne  3024
Sacred Heart Cheticamp  16240
St. Martha's Regional Antigonish  1936
St. Mary's Memorial Sherbrooke 16080 (shared with Guysborough)
Soldier's Memorial Middleton 36400 (shared with West Kings)
South Cumberland Medical Centre Parrsboro 36080 (shared with Bayview)
South Shore Regional Bridgewater 36464
Stadacona (Canadian Armed Forces) Halifax LIKELY ON DND TG'S
Strait-Richmond Cleveland  36784
Sutherland Harris Mem Pictou  not on TMR (No ER)
Twin Oaks Musquodoboit Harbour  36752 (shared with Musq Valley)
Valley Regional Kentville 36880
Victoria County Mem Baddeck  2064
West Kings Mem HC Berwick  36400 (shared with Soldiers)
Yarmouth Regional Yarmouth  2752

In the Halifax area the hospital system is somewhat complicated.   The IWK Hospital is an independent public hospital mostly serving patients under 16 and also maternity and neo-natal cases.  The Stadacona Hospital in CFB Halifax belongs to the Department of National Defence. The other hospitals and health centres in the Halifax area belong to the Capital Region Health Authority.  The Queen Elizabeth II Health Centre is a large complex with several sites, each with its own name.  Ambulances are usually heard heading with emergency cases to "QE2 Emerg" at the "new" Halifax Infirmary site on Robie Street; however in some cases they may be heading to other sites.   There is also Cobequid Emergency located in the Cobequid Community Health Centre in Lower Sackville.  This ER operates from approximately 0700 to 2200 only.   On the Dartmouth side of the harbour is the Dartmouth General Hospital which also has an ER and therefore is often heard on the air.   In addition to the above are the Nova Scotia Hospital, which deals with psychiatric patients and is usually not involved with emergency ambulance services, and the forensic hospital associated with the Central Correctional Facility in Dartmouth.  It is connected to the TMR as part of the Justice system, however you are not likely to hear ambulance traffic.

2. The Ambulance System


Information presented below refers to the civilian ambulance system; however there are also ambulances operated by the Department of National Defence.   These include field ambulances, i.e. the trucks painted in army colours with the red cross on the sides, and also regular ambulances, for example (and perhaps only) the ambulance associated with the Stadacona Hospital.   This ambulance is equipped with TMR.  Its operating channels are in the DND digital group, but it may be capable of using the civilian EHS channels as well.



Almost all ambulance services in Nova Scotia are owned and operated by Emergency Medical Care, a subsidiary of Medavie Blue Cross (formerly Atlantic Blue Cross and Maritime Medical Care).  EMC provides service to the people of Nova Scotia under a contract with the provincial government's Emergency Health Service department.  Due to this arrangement the ambulance service is often referred to as either EMC or EHS.   Medavie Blue Cross/EMC also separately operates the ambulance services in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.  In addition Medavie EMS Ontario operates the ambulance service for the District Municipality of Muskoka, Ontario.  This information is from observation and reports from paramedics rather than from official sources, but some information comes from the EHS webpage . and from .  EMC operates for EHS one large fleet of ambulances of various types.  Ambulances are stationed throughout the province but can be moved around at a moment's notice when the need arises -- this is the advantage of having one owner!   The province (EHS) owns the ambulances and sets the standards, but the paramedics, the bases and all the day to day operations are provided under contract by the private company EMC.

Dispatch and Communications: (See the communications section farther down the page)

Air Ambulance:  EHS operates an air ambulance based at the Halifax International Airport.  The helicopter and its maintenance is leased from Canadian Helicopters (CHC).  CHC is a very large commercial helicopter company - one of the very biggest in the world, and although based in the Vancouver area, operates around the world.  The helicopter operated for EHS will normally be heard on its own talkgroup (AMTAIR) but can communicate with the ground units or any hospital.  It is dispatched by the communications centre using the special talkgroup.  It also rarely uses its own simplex frequency labelled as AMTSIM. On the trunk the air ambulance is referred to as Lifeflight.  It can also be heard on the regular aero frequencies in contact with air traffic control units.  The current helicopter is a Sikorsky S-76, with civil call sign C-GIMN.  On the aero frequencies it usually identifies as India Mike November Medevac.   It is also able to use Satellite communications.    This helicopter is painted in the EHS colours of red, white and blue. This may in fact be coincidental, as it appears that CHC helicopters in general are painted in these colours. 


Photo in old colours, landing at a scene near Bridgewater.   Click here for the best shot of all, courtesy of Michael Durning, at  Under this photo you can click on a variety of links, such as more EHS, more Halifax airport, or more excellent photos from this photographer.  Check out what goes in and out of Halifax airport! 

There is also a contracted fixed-wing service provided by Provincial Airlines.  This aircraft is called into service when the helicopter cannot fly due to weather conditions, or there is an urgent need for simultaneous missions.   The aircraft is not dedicated to this service, not painted in the EHS colours, and may in fact be one of several Provincial Beech twin-engine aircraft, or other airplanes in their fleet.  Nova Scotia may also request the assistance of the New Brunswick fixed wing air ambulance Air Care 1.  See the New Brunswick ambulance page for details.

Ground Ambulance:  There is one system of ground ambulances and bases; however these are divided into regions for the purposes of supervision, for day to day maintenance, and for communications.   The regions are: Western, Central, Northern and Cape Breton.  Within each region are administrative areas which are: South Shore, Annapolis Valley, Halifax, North Central and Northwest, Northeast including Eastern Shore, Cape Breton Rural, and Cape Breton Regional Municipality.   Each of these has a working talkgroup and designated backup Tac talkgroup as outlined in the communications section of this page.

Ambulances stay on the talkgroup or channel of their home area even when they are in another area passing through, unless they are tasked to assist in that area.  For example, a Truro-based ambulance bringing a patient to Halifax stays on North 1 (except to check-in to the hospital in Halifax).  When the patient is dropped off at the hospital and the ambulance is available for use or heads for home empty it will be switched to Central 1 in case it is needed in the Metro area.   If it has a patient going home it stays on its home talkgroup for the entire journey.

Ambulances are identified by numbers which are currently in the range of  the mid-100's to high 200's with the highest number in March 2010 being up in the high 270's.    Note that as a unit is retired its number is not reassigned and therefore there is a steady progression of the numbers upward as time goes on.  

Ambulance numbers are not associated with a specific station as the fleet managers move units around as necessary for maintenance and in hand-offs.  A hand-off may occur in unusually long-haul transfers such as Sydney to Halifax.  Two ambulances leave from the two end points, meet in the middle and the crews change vehicles.  In this case therefore the truck that had been based in Halifax will now be a Sydney truck, and vice versa.

There are various ambulance and other vehicle types

Ambulances are produced right in Nova Scotia by Tri-Star Industries in Yarmouth, and leased to EHS for service.  Currently they produce approximately one ambulance weekly for EHS.   Each unit has a lease expiring at 300,000 km, which is normally about 3 years.  On retirement the number is also retired.  The retired unit goes back to Tri-Star.  The ambulance may then be sold overseas by Tri-Star which has a worldwide market.   In the case of Mini-Mods, the ambulance module could be mounted on a new truck base.

If ambulance numbers are heard with the suffix A or B, this refers to the level of care provided by the paramedics in the unit.  A = Advanced Life Support, B = Basic Life Support.  Ratings of paramedics have varied over time, but basically at this point they are:  PCP, ICP, ACP and CCP, with the last one, Critical Care Paramedic, only in use in Lifeflight.  In fact, CCP paramedics from Lifeflight revert to ACP designation when working in a ground ambulance.   

Tango 1:  This term refers to the EMC VP of Operations, who is the ultimate manager of the ambulance service, and his vehicle.   The vehicle is currently thought to be a silver Ford F-150 with a cap and rood antenna.  It is equipped with TMR (presumably with all the EHS and liaison talkgroups), and equipped with at least some some limited medical response gear.   Tango 1 is heard most often in connection with major incidents.  For example, the predecessor of Tango 1 figured prominently at the scene of the Stewiacke passenger train derailment and crash of the SAR helicopter near Canso.  The only logo on the vehicle is on the front "licence plate".

Maintenance Services:  There is a fleet centre in each region:

The maintenance bases are where all spare trucks for the region are stored, and of course where maintenance is done.

Ambulance bases (or stations) around the province are mostly now purposely built or rented for EHS, but there are still a few inherited from private operators in the early 1990's.   In HRM some units are based at fire stations but this practice is being phased out. In the urban area of Halifax you will also often hear other "posts" mentioned that are not stations but rather locations for an ambulance awaiting a call to sit and wait for action.  An example is Y&R, meaning the intersection of Young and Robie Streets.   In rural areas ambulances are often heard being sent to a more general area for coverage rather than a specific location.  Generally speaking each base has one unit with the associated shifts of paramedics to staff it; however some bases which are also regional centres have more.   Wilkinson Avenue in the Halifax area is listed as having 7 units, but the units are in constant use so that there would not be a lineup of vehicles sitting waiting to be dispatched.  Whether in Halifax or not, ambulances are more often on the road when a call comes in.  For a great web page listing all ambulance stations in Nova Scotia, together with a photo and staffing information click here.   At each base there is an office for the supervisor and another for the senior operations paramedic (SOP).   The bays have hoses and cleaning supplies for cleaning the vehicles.  Here is an older map showing ambulance stations and hospitals. 

Crew Shifts and Accomodations:   Shifts are either 12 hour or 24 hour, and vary by base.  24 hour shifts are in place in some rural areas in which it is determined that calls for service are generally at a low enough level that crews can sleep during the shift, beginning at 2200 onwards.  At the bases concerned there are therefore sleeping accommodations.  In other locations, which have 12 hour shifts, there are no beds.   Some stations have both 12-hour and 24-hour ambulances and shifts.  All bases have a kitchen, couches, chairs, as well as cable or satellite tv.    There is also a computer with blocked high-speed internet.

Medical First Response (MFR):  Often you will hear that fire is also being dispatched to the scene of an emergency for medical assistance.  This is part of the provincial Medical First Response program whereby trained personnel, usually in fire departments, are dispatched where it is thought that they could be on the scene before the responding ambulance.  In some cases these volunteer firefighting personnel are trained paramedics themselves or they might have received training in some basic but important lifesaving techniques.  This is particularly useful in rural areas where the fire personnel might be much closer to the scene.   In rural areas you will often hear both agencies being dispatched and arriving at nearly the same time, or even the ambulance arriving before the fire truck.  It is quite interesting in these cases of dual dispatch to hear the lag in time between one dispatch and the other!   The other interesting fact is that both might be coming from the same station (in cases where the ambulance is based at a fire station).  I am not sure how cost-effective all this is but at least it is quite comforting to know that more, rather than less, help is on its way!!!!   In the rural areas you may hear communications between EHS and fire units on the MFR tg for the particular area:  MFR-W, MFR-C, MFR-N, MFR-CB.

Paramedics are also able to access the services of an over-the-air physician who may give special advice and also give permission for the administering of certain drugs or to instruct with unusual procedures.  This service is called OLMC (On-line medical control).  Most often a unit will switch to a TAC talkgroup for the conversation.


This map is courtesy of Stephen.  It shows the four regions of the province in separate colours.   Outside the urban core of Halifax each region is further divided into two talk group areas as indicated.   For a full lineup of talk groups see the charts below.

All or most dispatching for the ambulance system is done from a central location on Brownlow Drive in the Burnside Industrial Park, with a backup at a location in Fall River.  This location serves as the provincial operational headquarters of the ambulance system.   The communications centre is on the 3rd floor.  Eight regional dispatch and operational talkgroups (equivalent to frequencies in a conventional system) are used along with liaison channels, including hospital channels (talkgroups) mentioned above.   Click here for a map of the operational tg areas (courtesy of Stephen).  Voice calls are supplemented by pages that give details of calls, along with Panasonic Toughbook Tablet with real-time call information and GPS mapping.   As with other public service agencies dispatch and control using the TMR is by way of consoles.   Consoles are not radios.   Ambulances have radios.  If you were close to an ambulance using the TMR and you hear it on the local trunk tower, you could if you wanted also hear it on the input frequency down in the 815 MHz range.   You won't hear the communications centre that way (unless they are using a backup radio) because with a console the traffic goes out to the TMR system and towers and back again by way of fibre-optic cables.   In a console the operator has several to many channels available, all shown on a screen.  

The following information comes primarily from an individual's visit to the dispatch centre, when he asked a number of questions as well as observed the stations and equipment in use.

In the communications centre there area about a dozen consoles (desks).  There is one dispatcher and console for each region.   This means that Cape Breton (Predominantly talkgroups CB1, CB2 and Tac 4) are handled by a dispatcher on one console.    Northern (North 1, North 2 and Tac 2) on another.    Central (Central 1, Tac 1 and the seldom used Central 2) on another.   Western (West 1, West 2 and Tac 3) on another.   There are also other consoles designated for Lifeflight, for the call-takers, and for the First Response Communications Officer (FRCO) who handles liaison with fire departments and others.  This position has the official inter-agency tg's but may also have access to the working tg's of some government departments.  The FRCO is able to contact DOT ferries on their local talkgroups in order to assist in placement of ferries for ambulance runs.   There is also supervisory console for the SCO (Senior Communications Officer).    The primary talkgroup lineup normally varies between these various consoles but on the other hand each console has various screens that can be called up at any time, so that one console can do the job of any other.  The screens are selected by use of the buttons across the top. The call-taker consoles' communications capabilities are only used in unusually busy times when dispatchers need a hand, and in slow times some consoles and dispatch services are consolidated.   Commonly during the night the North and Cape Breton are handled by one dispatcher and console, with Central and West on another. 

The backup communications centre in Fall River is thought to have similar capabilities but in a smaller area and with older equipment.

Units may be alerted to unusual situations by one of three tones.    Tone #2 which is always sent out by the dispatcher when a Code 1 is following.    The other tones are rare or never used:  Tone #1 is a long steady high-pitched tone sometimes used for a provincial advisory message, and there is alsoTone #3, which is a series of beeps.  

Hospitals generally only use TMR for the check-in procedure from ambulances; however it is known that one regional health authority has its own "private" talkgroup for unknown use, perhaps for communications among the hospitals in that region.

Lifeflight may use any hospital talkgroup, any regional ambulance working talkgroup or any TAC tg.   It also has its own dispatch and control talkgroup and a simplex frequency.  The helicopter is also provided with a Sat phone.

Ground Ambulances generally use the talkgroup of the region they are in, or for secondary communications use the TAC talkgroup that is associated.   Communications requiring a patch between the ambulance and another agency or with a physician are normally done on the TAC talkgroup.  They also switch to the hospital tg appropriate for check-in.

Ambulance supervisors have all the talkgroups that the regular ambulances have, plus several liaison talkgroups for contact with RCMP, DNR, GSAR and DOT.    At least one level of supervisors has a supervisory talkgroup, however this has not been heard in the last couple of years, and it is thought that this type of conversation, often regarding specific paramedics, has been moved to cellphones.

Channel (Talkgroup) Talkgroup ID (or frequency for simplex channels) Comment Use/Area
West 1 36848 Valley (Weymouth/Sissiboo River to Mount Uniacke)
West 2 36976 South Shore (Sissiboo River* to Tantallon)
Central 1 36944 Halifax Urban area (Emergency responses)
Central 2 36912 rarely used Halifax Urban area (PTU and backup)
North 1 37040 Colchester and Cumberland Counties (may include East Hants)
North 2 37072 Pictou, Antigonish and Guysborough Counties and the Eastern Shore
Cape Breton 1 37104 Cape Breton Regional Municipality
Cape Breton 2 37136 Rural Cape Breton
Northwest 4880 not currently in use Transborder (NS/NB) (future use) This talk group has been heard used at special events.
EHS Tac 1 36208  Backup and patches, Metro (Central) area
EHS Tac 2 36240 Backup and patches, North 1 and 2 areas
EHS Tac 3 36272 Backup and patches, West 1 and 2 areas
EHS Tac 4 36304 Backup and patches, Cape Breton 1 and 2 areas
Air Medical Transport 36112

 Medevac helicopter operations

VFD-EHS Link Western
2672 Only available directly to Dispatch and supervisors  to link ambulances and volunteer fire departments (medical first response - MFR)
VFD-EHS Link Central
2704 Only available directly to Dispatch and supervisors  "
VFD-EHS Link Northern
2768 Only available directly to Dispatch and supervisors  "
VFD-EHS Link Eastern
2736 Only available directly to Dispatch and supervisors  "
EHS-RCMP Link 33488 Only available directly to Dispatch and supervisors  to link EHS and RCMP units
EHS-DNR Link 2832 Only available directly to Dispatch and supervisors  to link EHS and DNR units
EHS Disaster 36432 major incidents
MAINT1 36368 Only available to Fleet and Dispatch Mainland Fleet Maintenance
MAINT2 2096 Only available to Fleet and Dispatch Cape Breton Fleet Maintenance
AMTSIM 867.0625 MHz Air Medical Transport Simplex
EHSSIM 867.5625 MHz EHS Simplex 
DIG1 7424 Only in digital radios Digital #1 (no specific use known)
DIG2 7456 Only in digital radios Digital #2 (no specific use known)

* While there are defined boundaries between talkgroup regions, most of the time they will be expressed as points on the 100 series highways.  The boundary between West 1 and West 2 is known to be the Sissiboo River bridge at Weymouth, which is also the boundary between Digby and Clare Rural Municipalities.  It is unknown whether it is the river or the municipal border that forms the talkgroup boundary as one goes inland.     Information on this boundary and others is requested.     Central and West 2 boundary is the Mt Uniacke interchange on Highway 101.  Between Central and North 1 it is the Hfx International Airport (the airport itself is in Central).  Between Central and West 1 it is Exit 3 on Highway 103.

Channel Line-up on Standard (i.e. non-supervisory) radios

As of May 2006, Nova Scotia EHS units have received new portable radios and these include two digital talkgroups. Their purpose is unknown, and may be designed for more private conversations if necessary. The following is the channel lineup on the portables. There is a continuous tuning arrangement, so that this list could start with any of the tg's. It is like an endless loop. Most of the tg's are hospitals. If you do not understand what the designations are, check the hospital list above and they will likely make sense. Note that the talkgroups are regionalized on the dial.... I have divided the list to show you. Halifax area shown first, then the North, starting with Northeast, then Northwest, with the shared Tac 2 in the middle. Then comes the south, with the Annapolis Valley followed by the South Shore, with shared Tac 3 in the middle. Then comes Cape Breton, starting with rural, and ending with the Sydney area, with Tac 4 in the middle. Finally come all the common channels, including the EHS simplex channel. Please note that supervisors and support personnel have other tg's such as maintenance and more liaison talkgroups. Mobile radios, as opposed to the new portables, do not have the digital talkgroups, and may not have as many MA tg's.   Note that "MONCTON" and " GEO DMNT"  are at present unused and are intended for future use with Moncton hospitals.

> TAC 1 
> QE2 ER 
> NORTH 2 
> TAC 2 
> NORTH 1 
> WEST 1 
> TAC 3 
> WEST 2 
> S S REG 
> CB 2 
> TAC 4 
> CB 1 
> MA 1 
> MA 2 
> MA 3 
> MA 4 
> MA 5 
> MA 6 



Historical background: The EMC system replaced a patchwork of individual companies throughout the province.  Each of these companies, including service provided by fire departments, had its own VHF radio frequency.  In addition there was a network of provincially-provided VHF repeaters operating on 158.91 and 158.94 MHz as well as a check-in frequency, 158.76, for liaison with hospitals.  When EMC took over at the end of the decade the individual frequencies were more or less abandoned, except that at least 3 of them were retained for special purposes, as shown in the historical table below.  Keep in mind that this table is now obsolete!  The ambulances no longer have the VHF radios necessary to use this system.  It is thought that in 2005, EMO and perhaps some EHS sites retain the ability to operate on 159.27 MHz, but perhaps just a waste as the repeater system either no longer exists or is closed.

Channel 1    158.28  Simplex Dispatch in Halifax urban area
Channel 2    158.40  Simplex Secondary channel Halifax; also used for local contact with air ambulance
Channel 3    159.27 Air Ambulance
Channel 4    158.76  Simplex Ambulance call-ahead most hospitals
Channel 5    158.94  Repeater Ambulance call-ahead to some hospitals in Halifax and also control of out-of-town ambulances while in Halifax. Dispatch in western Halifax County
Channels 6 to ?  158.91 Repeaters.  Channel numbers differed with the CTCSS input tones. Ambulance dispatch in most parts of N.S.
Other channels: By the end of 2000 the EHS system was also using some frequency pairs formerly used by the mobile telephone service (152/157 MHz)  

In the past the ambulances in a certain area normally used the local repeater channel.  If a long trip, such as into Halifax. was required, the ambulance would go onto the different channels along the way.