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  911 and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

Apr 10, 2012 08:37 ET

Important message for subscribers

Durham Region 911 is re-issuing a public safety advisory to residents. Customers subscribing to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephone services may not be aware of certain limitations in accessing their local 911 during an emergency.

VoIP uses broadband internet connections instead of traditional telephone network. Some VoIP users could encounter dangerous delays when making 911 calls.

Traditional land line based 911 system calls are routed directly to the appropriate local 911 (PERS) Public Emergency Reporting Service where Police, Fire and/or Ambulance are dispatched. Each 911 call in this traditional system provides automatic address and telephone number information to ensure emergency personnel will find callers, even if they are unable to speak. This is Enhanced 911.

These Enhanced 911 features are not available with VoIP telephone service. With the internet based phone systems, 911 calls go first to a third party call center operator, before being transferred to 911 PERS based on information users provide when they sign up for their service. That could mean the callers may be inadvertently sent to the wrong dispatch centre, especially if their personal information has not be updated with their internet service provider.

Possible 911 limitations when using VoIP:

· the VoIP service operator may send a request for emergency service to the wrong 911 Centre or a non-emergency line causing potential delay in response,

· if the caller is unable to speak, or if the call is disconnected, the operator may not have automatic location information to give to 911 Call-takers,

· access to 911 service for VoIP customers may not be available during a power failure or if the internet connection is disrupted,

· VoIP services do not have to enlist the use of a Language Line interpretation service as is currently used by the Durham Region 911 Centre,

· if the consumer moves and retains the VoIP service, they must ensure their address information is updated with their VoIP service provider

Consumers must be aware of these limitations when choosing VoIP service. Research any potential VoIP service provider you are considering contracting with to ensure you have all the facts about their service and their 911 capabilities and limitations.

Durham Regional Police, Durham EMT (Ambulance) and local Fire Services want to ensure their residents have direct and immediate access to 911 - when seconds count.

For further information, please call the 911 Manager, Sue Knox, at 905 579-1520 extension 6485, or 1-888-579-1520 extension 6485.