Locating IP Endpoints for Emergency Calls (E911)

Making 911 calls from a VoIP device presents several challenges for 911 operators. Your address may be incorrect or such data may not even be transmitted. There are ways to fix these issues to ensure all of your information is provided to the 911 operator. In this article, we show you how locating IP endpoints for emergency (E911) call purposes works.

Why Doesn't An IP Endpoint Work With E911?

it's not that technologies such as VoIP don't work with E911, it's more that data sent to a 911 operator may be incorrect. With a traditional telephone, your phone number or location are displayed at a PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point). The PSAP is your local 911 center where 911 operators are located.

E911 is actually an upgrade to the older 911 system. With E911 or Enhanced 911, your telephone number and location are displayed to operators. Your call is also routed to the closest PSAP or the one that services your area. With an IP endpoint, the call may go to an administration department, which could be closed or improperly staffed. They aren't qualified to handle emergency calls. This doesn't happen with traditional telephones because of reliable location information.

VoIP is also portable. You can go anywhere and use it. This is another reason it is problematic for emergency calls. If you happen to take your laptop with you on a trip out of state and end up making an emergency call with your VoIP phone, your home location will display. This sends emergency responders on a wild goose chase and potentially puts other people at risk since responders are tied up.

How To Ensure VoIP Works With E911?

Ensuring that your IP endpoint works correctly for emergency calls requires a few steps.

Update location information with your VoIP provider: VoIP location information is provided to E911 by your VoIP service provider. It's possible someone had your VoIP number before you. If the information for the IP number hasn't been updated, it may transmit old location data. You can update your address through the VoIP service provider's website or by calling your VoIP service provider.

Use a battery backup: VoIP requires constant power to operate. This is in contrast to traditional telephone lines, which have their own power source. If you use a softphone on your laptop, power probably isn't an issue since the laptop has a battery. But if you're using a VoIP device, it will need power. Most VoIP devices don't come with a battery backup. This means you'll need to connect it to a battery backup. It's also a good idea to periodically test the battery backup to make sure it is working properly.

Have a traditional phone or cell phone as a backup: The Internet can go down and a battery backup won't help when that happens. Having a traditional telephone or even a pay-by-the-minute cheap cell phone will allow you to make 911 calls. These backups are also a good idea when your Internet connection degrades. If that happens, voice data may not transmit correctly to 911 operators. This degraded connection can leave off your number and location. If the 911 operator can't hear you, there won't be any way for them to find out where you are or what the emergency is.

When All Else Fails: There is one more strategy if all you have a VoIP phone. Try calling your local police department or fire station. Keep both phone numbers handy. Yes - it completely bypasses 911 but it can let the right people know there is an emergency.

Your phone number and location are required for E911 services. VoIP can run into problems when sending this data. To ensure E911 receives the correct information, check that your address is up to date with your VoIP service provider. Also, consider putting your VoIP on battery backup and using a cell phone as a back up as well in case the Internet goes down.

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