In September 2004, Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, in collaboration with the Public Health Division of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Queen's University, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Kingston General Hospital and Hotel Dieu Hospital, began a 2-year pilot project to implement and evaluate an emergency department (ED) chief complaint syndromic surveillance system. Our objective was to evaluate a comprehensive and readily deployable real-time regional syndromic surveillance program and to determine its ability to detect gastrointestinal or respiratory outbreaks well in advance of traditional reporting systems. In order to implement the system, modifications were made to the University of Pittsburgh's Real-time Outbreak and Disease Surveillance (RODS) system, which has been successfully integrated into public health systems, and has enhanced communication and collaboration between them and EDs. This paper provides an overview of a RODS-based syndromic surveillance system as adapted for use at a public health unit in Kingston, Ontario. We summarize the technical specifications, privacy and security considerations, data capture, classification and management of the data streams, alerting and public health response. We hope that the modifications described here, including the addition of unique data streams, will provide a benchmark for future Canadian syndromic surveillance systems.