Here in the U.S. we’ve been taught since childhood to dial nine-one-one in an emergency situation, and most of us take it for granted that emergency response teams can locate and reach us quickly. Below, we review the various ways that emergency services locate callers – and what you can do to ensure your VoIP phone system provides accurate access to emergency services.

How does 911 Location Work?

Enhanced 911, or “e911” is the system used in North America to link wireless emergency caller locations to emergency services. With traditional landline phones, it is usually quite simple for the public safety answering system to query and match the fixed physical address associated to the originating landline phone. However, the advent of wireless and VoIP phones brought complications to emergency location tracking since they aren’t physically tied to a location. While mobile phones can use cell tower information and GPS data to help triangulate your location, VoIP calls originate over the Internet from a non-physical IP address, which poses challenges to emergency location tracking.

What is VoIP?

VoIP stands for “Voice Over Internet Protocol” and means that the phone call is transmitted over the Internet. VoIP comes with a lot of advantages for businesses, including cost savings, scalability, flexibility, and enhanced call features. However, it is important to be aware of VoIP’s capabilities and limitations when it comes to 911 services so that you can take the correct steps to ensure an accurate emergency response for your business.

VoIP and e911

A next generation IP-based version of e911 is currently in the works, but for the meantime, it is the responsibility of VoIP Providers and their customers to associate VoIP phones with physical addresses. Since May 2005, VoIP providers that interconnect with the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) have been are required by law to support e911 service (whereas VoIP-only providers that transmit calls purely over the Internet, such as Skype, do not allow you to place 911 calls through their system at all, for liability reasons). Therefore, your VoIP service provider should ask for the 911 response address with which to associate your phones at the time of implementation. It is essential for the given address to match the physical location of your office so that in case of emergency, 911 services can direct emergency personnel to the correct location.

Below are three tips to ensure you always have access to emergency services with a VoIP system:

1. Call 933 to check your e911 address:

    1. You can manually check the accuracy of your business phone’s associated e911 address at any time yourself! Simply dial 933, which will connect you to the 911 Address Verification Service, which will provided an automated reading of your 911 address. Please note: do not call 911 to verify your address as this will initiate a 911 response!

2. Keep your e911 address updated with your VoIP provider:

    1. Make sure your physical address is provided to your VoIP service provider and always promptly provide updated address information if you change or move offices. A quality service provider should have an easy way to update your e-911 information in event of a change, such as an online form.

3. Be aware of the limitations of VoIP service.

    If you lose Internet connectivity, you may lose the the ability to place and receive calls. Consider investing in a secondary Internet circuit for failover of your voice services in the event of an Internet connectivity failure. Also, it can be a good idea to have a back-up power supply for your desk phones in case of a power outage.

Interested in a VoIP phone system for your office?

Connect with Allied today and let us show you select the right VoIP phone system for your business needs.