Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology for communicating using “Internet protocol” instead of traditional analog systems.
VoIP converts the voice signal from your telephone into a digital signal that can travel over the Internet. Depending on the type of VoIP service, you can make a VoIP call from a computer, a special VoIP phone, or a traditional phone with or without an adapter. In addition, wireless "hot spots" in public locations such as airports, parks and cafes allow you to connect to the Internet, and may enable you to use VoIP service wirelessly.
When you call 9-1-1 from a traditional telephone, in most cases, the call is sent to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) – known in Sandy Springs as ChatComm. Within the PSAP center, personnel can identify your location and direct the closest emergency personnel to that location.
Users of VoIP need to understand that VoIP 911 calls present possible challenges:
- Call may not connect to the PSAP, or may improperly ring to the administrative line of the PSAP, which may not be staffed after hours, or by trained 911 operators.
- VoIP 911 calls may correctly connect to the PSAP, but not automatically transmit the user’s phone number and/or location information.
- VoIP service may not work during a power outage, or when the Internet connection fails or becomes overloaded.
What Should You Do
- VoIP customers need to make sure that their physical location is provided to their VoIP providers, and that this information is updated if the customer changes locations. Be familiar with your provider’s procedures for updating your address.
- Have a clear understanding of any limitations of your 911 services, and plan ahead for any possible interruptions.
- Make sure children, babysitters and visitors know about your VoIP service and any 911 limitations.
- Consider installing a backup power supply, maintaining a traditional phone line or having a wireless phone as a backup should power outages occur, or your Internet connection goes down. [Remember to make sure that your cellular phone company has your correct physical location as well]
- Also know that PSAPs are not able to receive text, photos and video
For more information about interconnected VoIP and 911, visit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) VoIP 911 website.