In the event of an emergency, are you capable of receiving the emergency response from calling 911 that you normally expect when using a traditional phone line? In the United States as well as Canada, a 911 call placed from your telephone is routed to PSAP (Public Safety Answering Points). Your number and location are reported when this call is placed. Knowledge of the phone number allows the 911 dispatcher to return the call if necessary and the location is of obvious importance to route an emergency response team. But what happens when this same 911 call is placed over a VoIP line?
There have been reported incidents where existing 911 calls placed from VoIP don’t get through to the primary PSAP and at times are routed elsewhere. The dispatcher also wasn’t receiving the additional information such as phone number and location. This can slow emergency response services to a critical level.
The FCC has mandated that all new subscribers have access to E911 service. The Enhanced 911 service provides the same level of information to the PSAP as described above. Currently there are some VoIP subscribers who do not have this service. The
FCC originally order a disconnect for all existing VoIP users without the E911 service. Recently the FCC has backed off that order (the original deadline for disconnect was Nov 28, 2005). Instead the FCC has now mandated that all ‘new’ service be equipped with E911 service. Those remaining VoIP providers not offering E911 service will be unable to market or sell new services until such time that they implement the E911 service.
When researching possible VoIP providers, you should make sure that this service is available. The government is mandating that it be available, but as an informed consumer this is information you should know. What good is saving money on your monthly phone bill if it’s at the expense of the safety of you and your loved ones?
Other things you should keep in mind is that VoIP runs over your existing broadband connection. If your broadband connection goes down, so does your phone line. Your broadband signal also needs to travel through your modem, so in the event of a power
outage, your broadband is down as well. (because the modem would be without power). You may want to review having a battery backup in the case of power outages and perhaps a second traditional phone line or a cellular phone in order to place emergency calls.