Chris Kranky

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E911 and VoIP – What you should demand

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

The topic of E911 and VoIP is a great fodder for various news agencies. It would seem all we do all day long is call 911. In fact, Americans made more than 150 million calls to E911 last year with about 1/3 of them coming from wireless callers. Why any VoBB provider would sign up a consumer without full E911 connectivity is stupid. You can put no value on life safety.

V911oBB providers have done their whole industry a disservice by asking new customers to agree to some huge disclaimer on how they handle E911. If your provider does not offer you true E911 service, odds are the one time you call 911, your call may be routed to the "break" room at the local police station. Or worse, your call may be routed to a far off “for hire” call center, otherwise known as an “Emergency Response Center”, contracted by your VoBB provider to take 911 calls when they have no idea what to do. The thought of a call center agent with a triple digit income and a double digit IQ looking thru the yellow pages to try and send my emergency call to the right place, doesn’t help me sleep at night.

Kranky says if you don’t get full E911, don’t get VoIP, it’s that simple. Kranky also says if you have VoIP, you should call 911 at least once AND not during Thug Happy Hour (Friday’s at 10 p.m.). Tell the operator this is not an emergency call and simply a test and ask them to verify the address information on their display. Your local emergency answering points hates these types of calls, but hey, if they can’t offer you a better way to validate, screw’em – tell them you’re checking on your taxes dollars (BTW – you violate no law by calling 911 to test it). If they don’t have your correct address, you should contact your provider immediately and give’em hell.

E911 is complicated (there are over 7,600 emergency answering centers in the United States, the worst city – Chicago – Cook County has 130 listed emergency answering positions, a total nightmare). E911 is also old (the best technology that 1976 had to offer) and because it doesn’t drive “revenue” and involves numerous local municipalities, any major change takes a lot of bureaucratic movement.

Having said that VoBB providers can and do have full E911 connectivity and it’s getting better every day, we, as consumers should demand it.