Do I Lose 911 Functionality with a VoIP System?

Do I Lose 911 Functionality with a VoIP System?

Know whether calling emergency services is possible from your VoIP phone

Many leading VoIP vendors are now venturing towards making 911 calls more reliable than before, thereby increasing the overall advantages of VoIP. What was once not possible owing to calls not bypassing the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), top VoIP companies have now started to offer 911 calls with capabilities such as interconnected VoIP. 

Such advancements have invited further buzz around VoIP vs. landlines, with many contemplating whether the latter is obsolete. However, 911 services through VoIP may still bear some drawbacks, in spite of being available.

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Can I call 911 through VoIP?

While the option to call 911 via VoIP is now available, it still bears some limitations. Depending on a number of factors, VoIP carriers are therefore instructed to clearly announce the very same to customers, by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In order to understand why and how these limitations exist, it is important to understand certain technologies surrounding VoIP-based 911 calls.

What is Enhanced 911 (E911)?

E911 takes traditional 911 a step further by offering location data automatically to a dispatcher, once a call is made. On the other hand, when you use your regular phone to call 911, the call is routed to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) in the United States. The 911 system is not handled centrally; instead, it's managed by each county in connection with local governments. 

This system has now been moving into an enhanced 911 mode, also known as E911. When you call in using E911, your location is automatically presented in the dispatcher screen, a major efficiency in emergency services delivery. However, E911 also consists of two variants, which therefore determine how quickly (and accurately) locations are shared with relevant authorities:

Static E911 - Offers the location that is registered with the VoIP number,

Dynamic E911 - Offers the most up-to-date location of the caller, based on devices such as wi-fi routers that may be used for connectivity in order to make the call.

E911: Regulations and things to consider.

The FCC has required interconnected VoIP providers to give access to 911/E911 services, and now many firms are transitioning to comply with this requirement. Be aware that this requirement is not for every VoIP provider, especially non-fixed VoIP numbers

To make sure you have this important service, take these steps:

  1. Inquire about 911 services and any limitations for your area. This service may work for some areas, but not others. Be sure that your area is covered.
  2. Ask the provider the number of 911 calls made last year using the service. If the provider cannot give you any numbers, ask more questions and be alert for possible problems. If the firm doesn't keep tabs on 911 calls, maybe this service is not reliable.
  3. Keep your provider abreast of your correct home address and let them know of any changes. Many providers keep track of this information, in case of emergencies. When a 911 call is placed, the provider can give your address to emergency services.
  4. Find out who and where your PSAP is, and confirm with it about your 911 situation. VoIP carriers may transmit the 911, but many small locations may not be capable of receiving the calls.
  5. Be sure that all users of the VoIP system know of the home or business address, so that if 911 is called, whoever is on the phone can give a proper location.
  6. Consider adding a backup power supply, to assure that you have access to the internet and the phone service, in case of power failure.
  7. Get a landline to be used for emergencies only.
  8. Research your vendor to verify the reliability of the 911 service that they offer in your area. 

Inquiring about 911 services when you sign up with a provider is a good idea. Make sure to comply with requirements for address changes and ask your provider many questions regarding the reliability of its 911 service. 

While it is valuable to have 911 calling services enabled on your VoIP platform, it is also handy to keep a traditional landline close by, so that you or your employees have multiple methods to reach out for help, if ever needed.

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