One of the most important inventions in telephony history was the ability to automatically log the address, name and contact information of any person dialing 911. This service is known as enhanced 911, or E911, for short, and it's hard to quantify the number of lives it has saved over the years.
However, as more organizations, as well as an increasing number of residential homes, make the shift to Voice-over-IP, this location data has been more elusive to authorities. As noted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), "Portable interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services can be used from virtually any internet connection anywhere, which raises challenges for the emergency services community in determining the location from which a 911 call has originated."
While this may sound disconcerting, there's a silver-lining to this situation. VoIP providers offer E911 services that supply their internet telephony users with the same location information that's available on a public switched telephone network.
A setback and a solution
"In an emergency, every minute counts."
As of 2005, the FCC passed a mandate that affected most VoIP providers. It dictated that these providers enable E911 services for users as a means to improve the emergency responsiveness. At first glance, this seemed to the solve the problem. But it left an important loose end untied.
Even with the ability to identify an address, large buildings with many rooms such as public schools, universities, hotels, government offices and corporate parks, among others, wouldn't necessarily provide more specific location data. This could hinder speedy response times, and in an emergency, every minute counts.
To address this problem, some VoIP providers supply users with special E911 services that make it possible to identify the exact room that a call is being made from. This ensures that first responders know exactly what entrance is most convenient to get in and out as quickly as possible to help those who may be in danger. The result of this IP-based technology is a safer, more connected community.
Don't take any chances with your emergency response strategy. Contact your VoIP provider right away to learn about its E911 offerings.