How to Make 911 Calls with VoIP

Telzio provides E911 service where you can make emergency calls from your VoIP phone system. Contrary to a landline service that is tied to one location, VoIP phones can be used from anywhere. As such, it’s important to register your address with the E911 service so that dispatch can know your location.

In this article, you'll learn how to enable 911 calling from your VoIP phone numbers.


What is E911?

E911, or Enhanced 911, is simply the modern-day 911 service. E911 is the system used in the US to automate location information to emergency dispatchers. The original 911 service only connected a caller to the local police station, but no address location was provided. Since the 911 service launched in 1968, the whole process has improved and evolved into the E911 system to include the caller's physical location information. VoIP and 911 service have come a long way.

Learn more about E911 service from Telzio.


E911 is Critical for All Businesses

When an emergency call is made to 911, the operator generally asks the caller to confirm their address. In some cases, the caller may not be able to provide the address, because they don't know it or they're unable to speak. Registering with E911 service in advance will ensure the dispatcher has your location information.

It's important to note that the 911 service does not work on your VoIP phones unless you activate the E911 feature. Your location information does not automatically register with the emergency services database when you purchase your phone numbers. You must manually supply the location information. The address associated with your account does not necessarily have to be the same address used for E911. If you have multiple offices and remote employees, you may want to use a different address for each phone number.


Enabling E911 Service

Registering the E911 service for your business VoIP phones can be done easily with Telzio. We strongly recommend that all your phone numbers have E911 service enabled.

You can enable E911 in a few simple steps:

  1. Go to the phone number on the Plans & Numbers page.
  2. Click Enable under E911 Emergency Service.
  3. Enter the address associated with that phone number.
  4. Dial 933 to test that the 911 calling capability is working.

Visit the E911 Support Page for the full step-by-step guide.


Calling 911 During an Outage

You can still make VoIP calls on your Telzio phone system during a power or internet outage with our mobile app. You can even keep your VoIP phones running during an outage with a backup power supply.

Related: Abandoned Babies Saved by VoIP Technology


Modernizing 911 Service with VoIP

We’re well aware that telecom technology has come a long way, and advances in VoIP 911 service takes it another step further.

From the POT to VoIP and smartphones, portable phones have just about become man’s most vital appendage. For us mere mortals, one doesn’t feel safe leaving the home or office without our devices. Landlines on the other hand, by nature of their stationary wired connection tied to copper wires and telecommunications networks, are no longer a 21st Century requirement, especially with the development of VoIP 911 service.

Survey says

Landlines are already going the way of the dinosaur. According to the National Health Interview Survey conducted in 2013 pertaining cell phone vs. landline preference, 41% of households no longer have a landline. That means two in every five American homes had a wireless telephone [aka as cell phones, cellular phones, mobile phones, smartphones and VoIP service on laptops and tablets.]

The estimates are based on in-person interviews, which NHIS conducts continuously throughout the year to document data on health status, health-related behaviors, and health care access and utilization. With the cell-phone preference stats growing from year to year, it appears that even the seniors with health issues are also acclimating to giving up the security of their landlines.

When the landline was a lifeline

There are some valid reasons as to why some are still reticent about giving up their landlines. One pertains to emergencies and the 911 service that supports them. Specifically, when you dial “911” on your landline phone, emergency personnel could immediately pinpoint your location. This coupled with the fact that traditional corded telephones are connected to copper wire [versus a modem] and will continue to work without electricity should our power go out gave many a sense of security that cell phones lacked.

Changing times

However, while the electricity argument does sound like a deal-breaker as to why you might want to hold on to your landline as a security blanket, that option may no longer be available to you in many communities throughout the U.S.

AT&T and Verizon are two telecoms pushing hard to shift traditional landline service and those copper lines, to a system of Internet-based phones by around 2020. If the Federal Communications Commission approves this transition as proposed, it could come as a shock to the 96 million Americans who still rely on landlines.

Many say this switch is inevitable. The old copper lines are aging and generally just too expensive to maintain. In 2012 for instance, after Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of the copper infrastructure in western Fire Island, N.Y., Verizon chose not to fix the phone lines. Instead, it proposed replacing them with Voice Link, a substitute that connects to the cellular network.

One of the proponents of getting away from the copper wire landline network is also a decision made by AT&T. “Our current infrastructure has served us well for almost a century but it no longer meets the needs of America’s consumers,” said AT&T senior executive vice president Jim Cicconi in AT&T’s public policy blog. Research by Georgetown University found that between 2006 and 2011, regional phone companies spent $81 billion on legacy networks, compared to $73 billion spent on broadband infrastructure.

This trend has continued throughout the country particularly in coastal and midwest cities hit by hurricanes, tornadoes and Nor’easters!

And these Internet systems are already in use, with VoIP services growing for both business and personal use. As of December 2012, 42 million Americans had Internet-based phones.


 

The future of 911

For small businesses and even home use, cloud-based phone systems like Telzio offer VoIP 911 service along with a level of flexibility that landlines simply do not. Not only is setup inexpensive and easy, but offices also don’t have to be wired for the phones, and moving the entire phone system to a new location is essentially a plug and play endeavor. Plus, custom plans help SMBs reduce their annual telephone costs exponentially.

Regarding the 911 concern with cell phones, it’s not the issue it was in the past.

Today when you dial 911 from a cell phone, the emergency responder gets an approximate location from your cell phone carrier. They can essentially pinpoint your location by triangulating your cell phone’s connection to the cell phone towers – down to a few hundred feet accuracy.

The next-gen 911 service that’s currently being rolled out for cell phone operators, as well as VoIP providers, will enable transmission of GPS coordinates, live video sessions, and much more.

For example, the new 911 network will be operating via technology similar to SIP [Session Initiation Protocol], making it possible to transmit all sorts of data. Voice, video, text and so on. This would allow the operator to establish a direct video connection to the caller, and offer help that way, as well as receive GPS coordinates for the phone’s specific location.

The improvements will make the 911 service on VoIP and wireless devices much better than on a POTS line.

Most carriers and CLEC’s [Competitive Local Exchange Carrier] will implement it over the next 2 years.

So yes, while the smartphone generation will extol the virtues of 21st Century mobile communication, let us also send a fond farewell to the dinosaur we know as the landline. And in their eulogy, we should give pause to a by-gone era when we all had the freedom to live our lives without the constant expectation that someone was always trying to reach us — when there was no anxiety leaving our front door without a mobile device attached at our hip.

Acknowledge that while technology has moved on, it’s still got a long way to go — less we forget about all those ‘dropped calls,’ ‘feeble batteries,’ ‘cell towers few-and-far-between,’ and yes, especially the times when dialing 911 was quicker and more efficient on a landline — when we were assured of early responders knowing exactly where we could be found.

Nevertheless, you can register your business numbers with 911 service with Telzio so that your office location is automatically transmitted to the local emergency dispatcher. 

Related: Beginner’s Guide to Understanding IP Phones

Jennifer is part of the content marketing team at Telzio, providing insight and tips on how Telzio can be used to optimize business communications and customer service.