911 problems with VoIP Calls

The uptake of VoIP in small communities is going to be a bit of problem because of E911 issues. Even though the industry is working hard to overcome these issues, it is a nagging issue for first responders. Case in point, Northland county in Minnesota.

Few people in the Northland are ditching their home phones yet, but the lure of dirt-cheap or free long-distance calling could turn a technologically challenging issue into a life-and-death situation. Here’s the problem: Emergency calls made using new Internet telephone services ring in through a nonemergency line to the St. Louis County 911 center. Lt. Kevin Kivisto, who oversees the county’s 911 emergency operations, said Internet emergency calls usually are more difficult to handle than land-line and cell-phone calls because the 911 operator must ask the identity and location of the caller. In a normal 911 call, that information automatically appears on a screen when the operator answers the call. If you can’t speak into the phone, emergency responders still know where to find you. “They are going to get answered, but they’re not going to get answered first,” Kivisto said.

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